This post is part of the “Prelude to Paris” series highlighting updates and analysis on international climate negotiations in the lead up to the United Nations climate change conference – the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) — to be held in Paris this December. Other posts in the series are available here.
Pope Francis’ visit to the United States has focused thus far on a wide variety of issues ranging from the arms trade, the death penalty, immigration, homelessness and climate change. Continuing his visit, Pope Francis traveled to New York City and gave an address to the United Nations. His address officially begins the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Summit where global leaders aim to tackle numerous topics, including poverty, literacy, health and environmental issues.
In his address to the United Nations, Pope Francis focused on a variety of issues, but paid special attention to the ecological crisis. He stated, “The ecological crisis along, with the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.” As with his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis linked the interdependence of humanity with nature (which he frequently referred to as “Creation”). As he put it, “Any harm done to the environment is harm done to humanity.” The harm caused to the environment, as well as to humanity, is a symptom of a “Culture of Waste”, another theme found in Laudato Si stated as a “Throwaway Culture.”
Pope Francis isn’t the first pope to talk about climate change. In his World Day of Peace Message in 1990, St. Pope John Paul II said, “The gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions as a consequence of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs.” Pope Benedict XVI, in his Easter 2009 address, “A second key area where you are called to make a contribution is in showing concern for the environment. This is not only because this country, more than many others, is likely to be seriously affected by climate change. You are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens, but also as followers of Christ!” Additional quotes and information are available from the Catholic Climate Covenant, an organization faithfully devoted to stopping climate change.
The pope of the Catholic Church is not only a religious leader, but also the leader of a sovereign nation: the Holy See. The Holy See is the universal governance of the Catholic Church, and it operates from Vatican City. The Holy See has Permanent Observer Status at the United Nations, a non-member status that provides access but not full voting privileges granted to full members.
After Pope Francis concludes his trip to the United States, the Holy See will participate in the COP21 climate change conference in Paris this December. Stay tuned!