Act quickly on climate change agreement, Pope urges

The international community must act decisively and follow the path mapped out at the Paris climate summit, Pope Francis has said.

Speaking after the Angelus on Sunday, December 13, the Pope recognised how the agreement signed at the Climate Change Conference (COP21) had been “described by many as historic”, but stressed that “its implementation will require a concerted commitment and generous dedication by all”. 

The summit reached agreement the evening before the Pontiff’s comments, two weeks of negotiations culminating in 195 countries agreeing to work towards the reduction of greenhouse emissions from the current 46bn tons a year to almost nothing over the course of the next 50 years. 

The signatory countries have also pledged themselves to working for global warming to be limited to “well below” 2C and possibly just 1.5C.

Under the terms of the pact, each country must report its emission figures every five years and detail its progress in cutting them, and will require developed countries to subsidise developing ones by $80m (€73m) each year. 

The Pope’s call for the signatory countries to ensure their words become actions echoes his September admonition to the UN general assembly that governments must take “concrete steps and immediate measures” to preserve and improve the natural environment, and “must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences”.

“Hoping that it gives special attention to the most vulnerable populations,” Pope Francis said of the accord, “we urge the international community to continue the path taken promptly, in a sign of solidarity that will become more and more active.”

While hailing the pact as “a welcome milestone in uniting the world against climate change”, Trócaire lamented how “the absence of human rights at the heart of the agreement highlights the fact that the global political system is still not putting the needs of the world’s poorest people at the heart of its actions”.

Overall, they said, the deal “should be regarded as a road map for urgent action as opposed to a definitive solution to protect people from the worst impacts of climate change”.