Pope Francis and the Vatican make historic efforts to address climate change.
While everyone is still talking about President Obama’s rant on climate change at the White House Correspondent’s dinner on Saturday, there’s no denying that his sweeping policies and leadership on climate change globally made him the biggest game changer on climate change in 2014. Who is up next? That would be Pope Francis.
Today, the Vatican organizes a climate change conference in Rome called Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, which brings together world leaders, climate experts and representatives from major world religions.
This event will soon be followed by an encyclical issued by the Pope in the early summer on human development and the environment that is widely expected to have a strong focus on climate change. I didn’t know what an encyclical was until a few months ago but basically it’s a letter circulated by the Pope to Catholic churches worldwide that provides analysis, in the light of the Gospel and of the Tradition of the Church, on relevant issues for the faithful. And it’s a pretty big deal for Catholics.
Pope Francis will then make his first visit to the US in September, in a trip that will prove to be historic as he will be the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress on September 24. This will be followed by a trip to NYC to address the UN General Assembly on September 25. Both addresses are anticipated to have a heavy focus on inequality, human development, and – you guessed it – climate change.
The Pope’s engagement on climate change will provide an opportunity, and encouragement, for faith leaders across religions and denominations to speak out about our global climate crisis and will prove to be a major boost to achieve a strong agreement in Paris at the end of this year and spur international action more broadly.
As part of his broader and much needed efforts on climate change, it will be critical that Pope Francis highlight the importance of climate finance in achieving equitable solutions to the climate crisis. Some religious leaders and organizations are already stepping up to highlight this point as demonstrated in this recent op-ed from a Jewish and Baptist leader. Hopefully, there will be a lot more ahead.