Vatican presents accession to UN and Paris Climate Agreements
By Salvatore Cernuzio
"At this particular moment in our history, marked by increasingly troubling conflicts that undermine multilateralism, it is necessary to consolidate our efforts in favor of integral ecology - an issue that - like climate change - is in danger of being overshadowed."
Speaking on Tuesday, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, who inspired the Pope's commitment to the care of our common home, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin announced that the Holy See, on behalf of Vatican City State, has joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adopted in 1992, and the Paris Agreement signed in 2015.
Pope's appeal with religious leaders and scientists
Cardinal Parolin spoke at a meeting organized by the Secretariat of State, in collaboration with the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, in the Casina Pio IV to reflect on the theme "Care for our Common Home". It was an important moment of reflection and sharing (online and in presence) that also took place in view of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh on November 6-18.
Significantly, the evnet took place on the first anniversary of the "Faith and Science: Towards COP26" event, which was held in the Apostolic Palace on 4 October 2021. That event saw numerous religious leaders and scientists from scientific traditions and fields sign, together with the Pope, an appeal to move decisively and with conviction from the "throwaway culture" to a "culture of care" for the planet.
Need for multi-level collaboration
"With the Holy See's accession, the UNFCCC almost reaches its universalization with 198 states," Cardinal Parolin noted.
Achieving this goal is the result of "a long process of study and analysis" with the Governorate and "collaboration" with the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as it was for the drafting of Laudato si'.
Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato si', was mentioned several times by the various guests, starting with Cardinal Parolin, who recalled how the document calls for collaboration "at different levels" between "disciplines," "countries," "different components of the international community (states, organizations, local authorities, private sector, scientists, civil society)" and, above all, "collaboration between generations."
As he said, "when we talk about caring for our Common Home, we should be concerned" about those who will inhabit the world.
Zero emissions by 2050
Cardinal Parolin pointed out that Pope Francis held this gaze toward the future when reaffirmed Vatican City State's commitment to reduce emissions to zero before 2050 and, at the same time, promote "an education in integral ecology" which can stimulate "new lifestyles, based on development and sustainability, fraternity and cooperation between human beings and the environment."
Conversion and decisions that cannot be postponed
"The so-called socio-ecological crisis is a propitious moment for our conversion and for decisions that can no longer be postponed," the Secretary of State remarked.
He added that the science is clear: "there is less and less time to mitigate the effect of climate change and adapt to it." The impact is "profound" and affects not only nature but also the economy and society.
Cardinal Czerny: reckless new fossil fuel projects
A cry of alarm was also raised by Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
"The global situation is more desperate than it was seven years ago," he said. "Despite the Paris Agreement, the goal of a temperature increase of only 1.5°C is virtually unattainable; the planet is already 1.2°C warmer. Yet many new fossil fuel projects are being recklessly launched, contradicting the International Energy Agency's call."
Laudato si' inspires people of good will
Against this backdrop, Cardinal Czerny glimpses a light that in Laudato si', which, 7 years after its publication, "continues to inspire and guide people of good will toward an increasingly integral ecological approach."
For its part, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development "supports every effort to connect, gather and share the voices of civil society," the Prefect assured.
One such example is the Laudato si' Action Platform, which currently brings together more than 6,000 participants, including schools, families, religious communities in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Environmental projects inside Vatican City State
In Vatican City State, there are "numerous environmental projects planned and organized" to achieve the goals of the encyclical.
On hand to list them was the newly-appointed President of the Governorate, Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, who spoke of procedures for the sorted collection of waste (organic and special waste, metals, plastics, batteries) in the directorates and offices, for the management of resources, as well as the new irrigation and watering techniques for water saving.
Other interventions include energy control, reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, installation of solar panels, and implementation of home automation systems which, in the absence of staff, can turn lights off.
"Ours," Cardinal Vérgez said, "is a collective effort to which everyone is called to contribute to change lifestyles, convinced that the climate is a common good of all and for all."
Archbishop Gallagher: We either win together or we lose together
During the event, a video was shown that was produced by the Dicastery for Human Development in collaboration with the Dicastery for Communication, which included testimonies from the five continents.
The conclusions were entrusted to Archbishop Gallagher, moderator of the meeting, who explained the reasons why the Holy See decided to adhere to the Framework Convention and the Paris Agreement.
First of all, he explained "consistency with the Church's social teaching on ecology," then, the desire to "strengthen multilateralism in the current critical situation."
"Either we win together or we lose together," the Archbishop said, stressing that the road to the goals of the Paris Accords "is lengthy" and there is still much to be done on issues such as climate, migrants who lack international protection, the increase in severe climate events, and resilience measures.
He expressed hope that COP27 might lead to "mitigating loss and damage, as requested by many developing countries."
"This is a matter of justice and equality that will have consequences in every country," Archbishop Gallagher said. "We need to end the culture of waste that dominates our societies and is so obviously unsustainable."
Avoiding a global catastrophe
Ministers from Fiji, Senegal, and Monaco spoke via Zoom during the meeting, which was opened by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, and Joachim von Braun, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Also in attendance online was Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, who thanked the Holy See for Tuesday's "courageous" act.
Steps like this are needed, he said, to "implement transformative change and avoid a global catastrophe" that will "change our climate, our world and our lives."