By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis sent a message to the participants at the recently-held UNESCO Forum on Biodiversity organized to discuss ideas to shape and fuel a dialogue on environmental challenges and their implications for the world.
The virtual event which took place on 24 March, also marked the official launch of the 50th-anniversary celebrations for the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme. The forum was attended by prestigious speakers and biodiversity protectors from around the world.
The Pope’s message, read by Archbishop Francesco Follo, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was centered around the theme of “Climate change and poverty.”
The need for a new development model
Expressing gratitude for the opportunity for discussion presented by the forum, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of the fight against climate change and poverty which he describes as “two complex and interdependent objectives” in light of which it is necessary to redefine a new model of development.
This new model, the Pope explained, is one that places each man and woman, and the whole man at the center “as the fundamental pillar to be respected and protected, while adopting a methodology that integrates the ethics of solidarity and political charity.”
Only in this way, he insisted, will it be possible to promote the “truly universal common good and a true civilization of love where there is no place for a pandemic of indifference and waste.”
Education to tackle climate warming
Speaking further, the Pope said that it is in this perspective – the same in which the Paris Agreement is inserted – that we are becoming more aware that climate change is “much more a moral than a technical issue” which can only be tackled by investing in “educating new generations on lifestyles that are respectful of creation which have so far remained unexplored.”
“It is particularly important that young people are trained in the safeguarding of creation and respect for others, to be able to engage in the promotion of new production and consumption habits, in order to generate a new model of economic growth that puts the environment and people at the center,” the Pope said.
Moreover, the impact of global warming on the poorest people already pushes us to consider the response to the socio-environmental crisis as a unique opportunity to responsibly take charge of the fragility of our common home.
The necessity of joint efforts
Pope Francis added that if we want to effectively combat climate change, “we must act together, taking into account the need to implement a thorough examination of the current development model in order to correct its anomalies and distortions.”
“Providing concrete responses to the serious phenomenon of global warming is a moral imperative,” he stressed. “Failure to act will have secondary effects, especially among the poorest strata of society, who are also the most vulnerable to these changes.”
In this regard, the Holy Father highlighted the crucial importance of the work of UNESCO which is based on the ethical implications of the climate emergency in order to deepen the scientific aspects.
The Pope also underlined the contribution that not only government representatives, but also civil society, the academic and scientific world, local communities and indigenous people can bring to the fight against climate change. He noted that “these non-state actors, often at the forefront of the fight against climate change, show particular sensitivity in the search for innovative ways to promote a sustainable production and consumption system and thus become interpreters of the cry of the earth and the poor.”
Concluding, the Holy Father impressed the urgency of joint action, stressing that “time is running out for the search for global solutions and the current health emergency obliges us to "recover our concern for human beings, for everyone, rather than the benefit of a few.” He also expressed hope that the forum may “contribute to strengthening the processes of transformation necessary to counteract the phenomenon of climate change and at the same time fight against poverty, thus promoting true integral human development.”