Pope, Archbishop lead calls for climate action

(Photo: Unsplash/Andreas Felske)

Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other religious leaders came together at the Vatican on Monday for a climate-focused meeting ahead of the UN's COP26 summit in Glasgow next month.

The one-day meeting, titled 'Faith and Science: Towards COP26', was organised jointly by the Vatican and the Italian and British embassies to the Holy See.

A joint statement warning of "unprecedented challenges" was signed at the meeting and presented to Alok Kumar Sharma, president designate of COP26, and Luigi Di Maio, Italian foreign minister.

It calls on governments to recognise the "deeply interdependent" nature of the relationship between humans and nature, and speaks of "the necessity of an even deeper solidarity in the face of the global pandemic and of growing concern for our common home".

The religious leaders also link the environmental crisis to a "crisis of values" and what they call the "seeds of conflict: greed, indifference, ignorance, fear, injustice, insecurity and violence".

"Damage to the environment is a result, in part, of the predatory tendency to see the natural world as something to be exploited with disregard for the extent to which survival hinges on biodiversity and on maintaining the health of planetary and local ecosystems," they say.

"Multiple crises facing humanity are demonstrating the failures of such an approach; these are ultimately linked to a crisis of values, ethical and spiritual."

The statement condemns today's "pervasive throwaway culture" and the "wickedness of excess", and says this must be replaced by "a new kind of economics" centred on human dignity and care for the environment rather than "endless growth and proliferating desires". 

The statement concludes, "Future generations will never forgive us if we squander this precious opportunity. We have inherited a garden: we must not leave a desert to our children.

"Scientists have warned us that there might be only one decade left to restore the planet.

"We plead with the international community, gathered at COP26, to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship."

In a speech to delegates, the Pope said the spiritual and material were "profoundly interrelated", and that action must be informed by a sense of "interdependence and co-responsibility". 

"We cannot act alone, for each of us is fundamentally responsible to care for others and for the environment," he said.

"This commitment should lead to an urgently needed change of direction, nurtured also by our respective religious beliefs and spirituality." 

While the Pope said there was a challenge ahead in creating a culture of care for the planet, he said this should inspire hope "for surely humanity has never possessed as many means for achieving this goal as it possesses today".

He concluded, "COP26 in Glasgow represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations. We want to accompany it with our commitment and our spiritual closeness."