By Vatican News staff writer
To commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 and the upcoming Climate Ambition Summit 2020 slated for 12 December, the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and its partners, in collaboration with the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) organized a webinar on Wednesday.
The online event titled “Faith, Science and Youth: A call for an ambitious climate summit” aims to highlight the need to urge governments to raise their ambition for tackling the climate emergency.
It gathered global voices from faith, science and youth to discuss concrete ways to simultaneously address the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis and the climate crisis through “a just and sustainable recovery of economies and society that puts people and the planet before profit.”
The speakers during the event include Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; Prof. John Schellnhuber, the founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, the Coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad (AFPAT).
The Church and climate action
Cardinal Turkson, in his intervention, reiterated Pope Francis’ call for an ecological conversion in the Laudato si’ Encyclical. He added that in the light of the Covid-19 crisis which has further highlighted the need for conversion, it is important to build new models and rechart our paths to emerge better from the pandemic. The Pope’s appeal, he notes, invites us to accept our role as “ecological citizens.”
In this regard, to bend the curve on climate change, we will need “a change in lifestyle,” noted the Cardinal. This includes ideas like promoting rooftop gardening, rethinking our city and urban planning, adopting sustainable and organic building and architectural materials, and the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy.
The Cardinal also highlighted the Church’s efforts in creating networks for indigenous peoples in the Amazon, the Congo and in other places. He also noted that the Church has embarked on a program of promoting climate response actions particularly at the grass-root levels, including encouraging efforts towards the Dakar-Djibouti greenbelt.
Climate change and Indigenous people
Hindou Ibrahim noted that climate change affects everyone, especially indigenous peoples who, though are not the biggest culprits of climate devastation, are disproportionately impacted by its negative effects. Many of them she noted, depend on the environment for jobs and for food but are facing difficult times due to climate change.
She further pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic has also exacerbated difficulties faced by the indigenous people. The lockdown restrictions imposed during the pandemic made them more vulnerable by becoming a driver of food insecurity and access to water. She said that restrictions to movement are particularly hard on nomadic tribes who migrate following rain patterns.
Observing the global efforts that have been directed towards funding scientific research for a Covid-19 vaccine, Ibrahim said that we can, in the same way, learn to listen to the scientific community as regards climate change and recognize the urgency of working towards reducing its effects.
The importance of indigenous knowledge
Ibrahim went on to explain that indigenous people protect 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity as they, through their knowledge of the land, know how to maintain the balance in the ecosystem. She added that this knowledge, shared among other indigenous peoples in other parts of the world, can serve as a tool to protect biodiversity and to educate governments especially as regards policies and deforestation activities.
She stressed that “If we do not respect nature, we do not respect ourselves because nature gives us water, food and clean air.” Therefore as “Climate change has no vaccines,” we must protect nature so that nature, in turn, will protect us.
Science and climate change
Professor Schellnhuber, providing a scientific perspective to the discussions, explained the scientific evidence on climate change five years after the Paris Agreement which aimed to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.
He highlighted some of the tipping elements in the earth’s climate and gave the example of the Greenland ice sheet which lost a record one million tonnes of ice per minute in 2019. He also pointed out the continued increase in carbon dioxide levels in the world noting that some developed countries are more culpable for the increase than others.
Recommending steps to curb the effects of climate change, Schellnhuber proposed engaging the building and construction industry, encouraging them to build with organic materials that can turn buildings into global carbon sinks; promoting a transition to cleaner sources of energy, including improving on our harvesting technologies to harness solar energy.
Vatican Covid-19 Commission & Integral Ecology taskforce
A group of partners under the coordination of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development gathered in the spring of 2020 to form an Integral Ecology taskforce with the purpose of providing expertise, scientific evidence to support the work of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission.
The task force aims to articulate integral ecology proposals that can help address social inequalities further highlighted by the health and ecological crises in the world.