INTERVENTION BY THE HOLY SEE
PLENARY OF THE HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT
OF THE UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE
ADDRESS GIVEN BY
H.E. ARCHBISHOP JAMES
APOSTOLIC NUNCIO, HEAD OF DELEGATION
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
At this very decisive moment in the history of climate negotiations we have to
come to the point where we must overcome inaction. As Pope Francis said in his
Message to our Conference, the issues we are debating “affects all humanity, especially the poor and future
generations: […] it is a serious ethical and moral responsibility […] There is a
clear, definite and urgent ethical imperative to act […] We can only find
adequate solutions if we act together”.
The longer we wait, the more it will cost; more victims will suffer from our
inaction and the greatest weight will fall on the most vulnerable, the poorest
peoples and future generations: what is at issue here is respect for their
fundamental human rights.
Our earth is the object of our constant concern and requires our constant
attention. We are not the masters of nature, but its stewards. We need to respect it, but “instead we are often guided by the pride of
dominating, possessing, manipulating, exploiting; we do not ‘preserve’ the
earth, […] we do not consider it as a freely-given gift to look after” (Pope
General Audience, 5 June 2013). “Respect for the environment, however, means more than not destroying it; it also
means using it for good purposes” (Pope Francis,
Address to the European
Parliament, 25 November 2014).
The Holy See’s Delegation has repeatedly called for a clear and firm political
will to agree on tangible and concrete action, and has urged the adoption of
common binding measures and adequate budgets for effective and sustainable
action on mitigation and adaptation, as well as on sharing technologies and
know-how. The operational bases needed to facilitate this mutual responsibility
are already available or within our reach.
The critical problem of global warming is inextricably bound to the search for
authentic integral human development. We can achieve two interconnected
objectives: combating poverty and easing the effects of climate change. As
stewards of nature, we can learn a lot from the signs it is sending us. The
worries and the concerns about our common home make us aware that we are part of
one interdependent human family. The decisions and behavior of one member of
this family have profound consequences for all others. There are no borders,
no more political, social or geographical barriers behind which one can be
isolated. There is no room for the globalization of indifference, the economy of
exclusion or the throwaway culture so often denounced by Pope Francis (cf.
His Eminence Card. Pietro Parolin to the UN Climate Summit, 23 September 2014)
Pope Francis warns that “the effective fight against global warming is only
possible through a responsible collective response, that overcomes particular
interests and behaviors and develops itself free from political and economic
pressures. A collective response that is also capable of contrasting attitudes
of distrust and promote a culture of solidarity, encounter and dialogue; able to
act responsibility to protect the planet and the human family”, ensuring that present and future generations have the possibility of living in
a safe and worthy environment. This is the great challenge facing not only the Conference, but all human
Justice, respect and equity are at the basis of this culture.
If we remain inactive in addressing climate change, even before drafting a new
agreement, we already violate equity, one of the core principles of the
Convention. We have only one year left to the COP-21 in Paris, where the world
is expecting an answer in the form of a new climate Treaty. We were unable to
give that answer in 2009 when we failed to reach an agreement in Copenhagen.
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, released last October, emphasizes once more
that action is extremely urgent and highlights the risks of inaction. Let us
work together for the common good rather than point at each other and pass
responsibility to others. This requires the full, responsible and dedicated
collaboration of all, according to their possibilities and circumstances.
Technical solutions are necessary, but not sufficient. We must also consider the
central factor of education: education aimed at fostering a sense of
responsibility in children and adults towards environmentally sound patterns of
development, the stewardship of creation, and solidarity among people. The
current lifestyle with its throwaway culture is unsustainable and should have no
place in our lives. The Holy See is continuously making significant
contributions in this regard. Worldwide, many Catholic educational institutions
are engaged in promoting such education for environmental responsibility, which should be ever more deeply anchored in respect for “human ecology”. Moreover, Episcopal Conferences, dioceses, parishes and faith-based NGOs have
been devoted to advocacy and management of ecological programs for a number of
The Holy See hopes that everyone will join in adopting an ambitious holistic
approach to ensure the integral development of all persons, countries and
Thank you, Mr President.