The 28th annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ framework on climate change, better known as COP28, begins this week. It is critical that the moral message of integral ecology be heard during these UN-sponsored negotiations.
Vatican City is a party to the Paris Climate Agreement, and will be helping shape the final outcome of these negotiations. In addition, the universal Catholic Church brings a significant moral voice that can positively inform all discussions on climate change. Catholic social teaching, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum, and the good will of all men and women of the Church and beyond are a force for good.
The Nationally Determined Contribution
In October of last year, Vatican City officially became a party to the Paris Climate Agreement. It has set its initial “nationally determined contribution” (NDC), or a plan outlining how it will reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The plan’s targets were delivered in May 2023 and are available here.
While many other states have delivered their own NDCs, Vatican City plays a distinctive role at COP28, transcending political and economic interests. Focusing on the ethical dimensions of the climate crisis is crucial in a world grappling with its tragic consequences for our brothers and sisters.
Integrating Catholic Social Teaching
The Catholic Church has a rich legacy of social teaching evolved over the centuries, and its principles will be central to the message the Vatican brings to COP28: including emphasis on the dignity of every person, the importance of the common good, and a preferential option for the poor. In the context of the climate crisis, these principles call for policies that prioritize the most vulnerable of our neighbors.
Laudate Deum: A Clarion Call
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum, released in October, calls for urgent, concrete, obligatory action to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. He hopes that COP28 will be “a historic event that honors and ennobles us as human beings.” (LD 59) In particular, he calls for something the Vatican itself is also still working on: a just transition away from fossil fuels. As the Holy Father says, “the necessary transition towards clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels, is not progressing at the necessary speed.” (LD 55)
A Moral Compass in Global Climate Discourse
As the global community converges at COP28, Vatican representatives will be among those listening and participating in the climate talks. They will offer the wisdom of Catholic tradition, together with a few examples of how the church is making positive changes, including that of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. Where a critical moral voice is needed, the platform offers a global example of over 8200 participating Catholic and non-Catholic organizations and individuals from 144 countries, who are concretely working on an intentional journey toward integral ecology. These participants have the potential to impact 125 million people, and are supported by planning tools, resources and a community who has joined together on a journey to care for God’s creation. Concrete faith-inspired projects like the platform are one way the Vatican and other faith-based participants at COP28 will offer a counterbalance to the fossil fuel industry and seek to inspire a just transition where integral ecology becomes the norm.
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