Catholics call for climate action in Paris

More than 1.8 million signatures – including 800,000 collected by Catholic organisations – were on a petition calling for action on climate change submitted by interfaith leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Heads of state gathered in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget for the summit, with leaders of Catholic organisations saying that terror attacks on Paris had not dissuaded them from attending.  

“We ask for drastic cuts of carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous threshold of 1.5°C,” Brazil’s Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, said. 

Referring to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and to an October appeal by Catholic bishops from around the world, he said, “As the bishops’ appeal states, we need to ‘put an end to the fossil fuel era’ and ‘set a goal for complete decarbonisation by 2050’.”

“And we ask wealthier countries to aid the world’s poorest to cope with climate change impacts, by providing robust climate finance,” he added. 

Hundreds of thousands had been expected to march in Paris on November 29, but the march was cancelled after the terrorist attacks. Instead, Parisians and others donated shoes and set them up at Place de la Republique as a symbolic display. Pope Francis donated a signed pair of shoes to the display, according to Fr Michael Czerny SJ of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as did council president Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Hummes.

Catholics were prominent in climate change marches around the world, with Hunduras’s Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, former president of Caritas Internationalis, telling a crowd of over 40,000 in Melbourne, “We were given a garden. We may not deliver back a desert.”

Speaking about the conference in Kenya, whilst visiting the Nairobi headquarters of the UN Environment Programme, Pope Francis said that the international community had to choose “either to improve or to destroy the environment”, predicting that it would be “catastrophic” if special interests were to prevail over the common good.