By Linda Bordoni
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) says that it is important to watch that the European Commission’s ecological agenda does not have negative effects on the poor countries of the world.
The Commission’s ambitious climate agenda
In July 2019, the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen the future President of the European Commission, and she immediately announced that she aims to focus on an ambitious climate agenda to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
This, Cardinal Hollerich told me in a previous interview, is an excellent target, and he explained that the COMECE 23-25 October Autumn Assembly has been an occasion to discuss the role of the Church and its input as it works with the EU on institutional and policy levels.
Wrapping up the Assembly, the Cardinal confirmed that the need for and environmental conversion in Europe and discussions regarding COMECE’s “Green Programme” took center stage.
He said participants had the privilege to listen to interventions by representatives of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), from Caritas Europa, from Cidse (the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity) and from FAFCE (Federation of Catholic Families).
“The bishops were touched by their enthusiasm and by their competence, so it is clear that it is something that we have to monitor in the action of the EU and in the action of the next Commission,” he said.
Making sure the poor do not pay the highest price
Noting that the next Commission has pledged to be very ambitious, as far as climate change is concerned, Cardinal Hollerich said COMECE has the responsibility of encouraging Commission members “to maintain these high ambitions and at the same time to consider the rest of the world.”
“Because it can happen, that for example, the carbon footprint in France has become smaller inside France, but has become much bigger outside France… because of the industries and so on,” he explained.
So, the Cardinal said, it is the duty of European bishops to make sure that, yes, Europe must be better on climate change and so on, but also that the poor countries of this world will not have to pay for it.
Is Europe ready for an ecological conversion?
Cardinal Hollerich told me that as with all conversions, Europe’s ecological conversion has to begin within each of us.
“It’s not just a change of lifestyle, it has to come from the heart, and we have to live it first before we propose it,” he said.
He noted that this is a good thing also because one has to make transitions, and pave the way for a new lifestyle in a gradual way, and taking many things into consideration.
If all of a sudden, he said, “we did all the things necessary for the climate we would risk a much higher jobless rate”.
So, the Cardinal continued, “it has to be a transition so that new jobs be created, that the new greener industry can develop, and this transition is very important”.
“That the poor people are not those who have to pay the bill at the end,” he said.
Hope in the young generations
“The cry of the young generations is very strong in my ears,” Cardinal Hollerich said referring to the global student movement calling for ecological change in order to guarantee a future for the world and its inhabitants.
“If we cannot listen to their voice we become very egoistic old people who do not care for their own children,” he concluded.