POPE FRANCIS has urged world leaders meeting in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit to reject isolationism and exploitation, and, instead, work together so that today’s children do not inherit an “unliveable world”.
The Pope made his appeal in Friday’s Thought for the Day on Radio 4: the first time a pope has appeared in that slot since his predecessor, Benedict XVI, on Christmas Eve in 2010.
In advance of the opening of the COP26 conference, the Pope warned that an increasingly fragile world was facing a “perfect storm” of environmental, health, and economic crises which could “rupture the bonds holding our society together within the greater gift of God’s creation. We can confront these crises by retreating into isolationism, protectionism, and exploitation; or we can see in them a real chance for change, a genuine moment of conversion, and not simply in a spiritual sense.”
As the Pope will not be travelling to Glasgow to join the summit, his broadcast on Friday morning marks his significant intervention in the talks, which, the Government hopes, will kick-start more progress in ending coal-fired power stations and committing more countries to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
World leaders would have to make difficult, radical decisions, Pope Francis said, if they were to surmount the overlapping and interconnected crises facing everyone. Greater solidarity between nations and a sense of humanity’s common goals and shared responsibility for the world would be vital, he said.
He also reflected on a recent joint appeal that he had issued with 32 other religious leaders — including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew — which called on richer countries to slash their emissions further and provide more climate finance for their poorer neighbours (News, 8 October).
“I was impressed by something said by one of the scientists present at that meeting: ‘If things continue as they are, in 50 years’ time my baby granddaughter will have to live in an unliveable world.’ We cannot allow this to happen.”
There was hope for the future, the Pope said. Humanity had never before had so many different means to achieve its goal of preventing climate catastrophe. But it would require decision-makers at COP26, and ordinary people, too, to fulfil their part in “changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and the degradation of our common home”.
On Friday, Pope Francis held an audience with President Biden, ahead of the President’s participation in the G20 Summit in Rome, this weekend.
A statement from the White House said that President Biden “lauded Pope Francis’s leadership in fighting the climate crisis”. In a subsequent meeting with the Vatican Secretary of State [and the state representative at COP26], Cardinal Parolin, President Biden thanked him for the Vatican’s actions “both through advocacy and encouraging the climate neutrality of hundreds of Christian organisations worldwide”.
The Pope’s message can be watched here.