Pope Francis reads the Catholic Climate Petition with GCCM representatives Tomás Insua from Argentina and Allen Ottaro from Kenya. Photo: Fotografia Felici.
Pope Francis endorses climate action petition to world leaders
15th May 2015
The Pope has urged Catholics around the world to sign a new faith-inspired petition calling on world leaders to limit global warming to 1.5C, shortly after declaring that there is 'clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act' on climate change.
Climate change hits the poorest first and hardest, and will leave an unnecessarily dire legacy for future generations. We Catholics need to step up against climate change and raise a strong voice asking political leaders to take action urgently.
Protocol means Pope Francis cannot sign himself, so he asked the Pontifical Ceremonieri, Monsignor Guillermo Karcher, to sign the petition on his behalf to emphasise his endorsement and encourage Catholics to sign as well.
The Pope's move is another sign that he intends to lead Catholics into an active response to climate change.
"Pope Francis was very supportive of the work we are doing to engage Catholics around the world in a coordinated response to climate change", said Tomás Insua, the Argentinian co-founder of the GCCM.
"The Pope even joked that we were competing against his encyclical. His endorsement of our work is extremely important to raise awareness within Catholic circles globally, and to collect more signatures."
'A clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act'
The idea for the petition came as a response to Pope Francis' call last December, in which he said: "On climate change there is a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act."
The signatures will be presented to world leaders in December 2015, when they will meet at the United Nations climate summit in Paris.
"The support of Pope Francis to the petition is very important as climate change is a great and urgent moral issue", said Allen Ottaro, director of CYNESA based in Kenya and co-founder of GCCM.
"Climate change hits the poorest first and hardest, and will leave an unnecessarily dire legacy for future generations. We Catholics need to step up against climate change and raise a strong voice asking political leaders to take action urgently. I encourage all to sign the petition on our website."
The Pope also presented GCCM with the book 'The Sun's Energy in the Vatican' as a gift to emphasise the Holy See's commitment to renewable energy as a means to address the climate change crisis.
A 1.5C temperature target
The GCCM adopted the benchmark of 1.5°C "because it is an accepted convention being offered by scientists and others around the world", explained Bill Patenaude, a GCCM co-founder.
"That degree-and-a-half of thermal energy is the amount of warming presumed to be about as high as you want to go before global systems begin to shift even more dramatically than people around the world are already observing.
"World leaders can't tweak every variable that affects global temperatures, but they can help build a world with fewer greenhouse gases discharged from the lifestyle choices of so many (like me). And whether or not you take stock in the accepted science of climate change, isn't reducing emissions of anything a good thing?
"Of course, lots of people accept the science of climate change. They do so not because they are climatologists but because they are fishermen, farmers, bird watchers, gardeners, and other vocations that require them to keep track of nature's cycles.
"These people are noticing changes. And what they're noticing is consistent with what happens when the atmosphere holds more thermal energy-even if the change is a bit chaotic, as one would expect from a complex system like a planet.
"Then, of course, there are places like the Philippines that have been repeatedly pummeled by severe storms. And there are places that have seen increased precipitation intensities, and others with less.
"All this (and more) has prompted the need to be heard and to do something and to demand that our leaders act. This need is growing because so many people feel that they have no way to contribute solutions to a big and frightening problem."
Vatican's climate action to intensify
The Catholic Church is becoming increasingly vocal on climate change. Two weeks ago, the Vatican hosted a high-level summit about climate change and released a declaration that stated:
"Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity."
Once Pope Francis' encyclical on ecology is published in June, it is expected that action will continue to intensify.
The petition: 'To world leaders: Climate change affects everyone, but especially the poor and most vulnerable people. Impelled by our Catholic faith, we call on you to drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous threshold of 1.5°C, and to aid the world's poorest in coping with climate change impacts.'
The GCCM is an international network of over 100 Catholic organisations, working to rally catholics worldwide to take action on climate change as the Pope prepares to publish his highly anticipated encyclical on ecology this coming June.
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