69th GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS
CARD. PIETRO PAROLIN
SECRETARY OF STATE
DURING THE UN SUMMIT ON CLIMATE
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Mr Secretary General,
I am pleased to convey the cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis to
all those here present for this important Summit, which has gathered together
high governmental and civil officials, as well as leaders from the private
sector and civil society, in order to identify significant initiatives that will
address the concerning phenomenon of climate change. It is well known that
climate change raises not only scientific, environmental and socio-economic
considerations, but also and above all ethical and moral ones, because it
affects everyone, in particular the poorest among us, those who are most exposed
to its effects.
For this reason, the Holy See has often stressed that there is a moral
imperative to act, for we all bear the responsibility to protect and to value
creation for the good of this and future generations. Pope Francis, from the
beginning of his Pontificate, has underlined the importance of "protecting our
environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit
greedily, to one another’s detriment" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps
accredited to the Holy See, 22 March 2013).
The scientific consensus is rather consistent and it is that, since the
second half of the last century, warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
It is a very serious problem which, as I said, has grave consequences for the
most vulnerable sectors of society and, clearly, for future generations.
Numerous scientific studies, moreover, have emphasized that human inaction in
the face of such a problem carries great risks and socio-economic costs. This is
due to the fact that its principal cause seems to be the increase of greenhouse
gas concentrations in the atmosphere due to human activity. Faced with these
risks and costs, prudence must prevail, which requires thoughtful deliberations
based on an accurate analysis of the impact our actions will have on the future.
This requires a great political and economic commitment on the part of the
international community, to which the Holy See wishes to make its own
contribution, being aware that "the gift of knowledge helps us not to fall into
attitudes of excess or error. The first lies in the risk of considering
ourselves the masters of creation. Creation is not some possession that we can
lord over for own pleasure; nor, even less, is it the property of only some
people, the few: creation is a gift, it is the marvellous gift that God has
given us, so that we will take care of it and harness it for the benefit of
all, always with great respect and gratitude" (Pope Francis, General
Audience, 21 May 2014).
Mr Secretary General,
The long debate on climate change, which gave rise in 1992 to the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its subsequent
implementation, shows how complex this issue is. Since then until our own day,
much has changed: the dynamics of international relations have given life to
changing geopolitical contexts, while the scientific and informational
technologies have become extremely refined.
A principle element which has emerged from the more than thirty years of
study on the phenomenon of global warming is the increasing awareness that the
entire international community is part of one interdependent human family. The
decisions and behaviours of one of the members of this family have profound
consequences for the others; there are no political frontiers, barriers or walls
behind which we can hide to protect one member from another against the effects
of global warming. There is no room for the globalization of indifference, the
economy of exclusion or the throwaway culture so often denounced by Pope Francis
(cf. Apostolic Exhortation
Evangelii Gaudium, 52, 53, 59).
In the actions undertaken to counter global warming we have too often seen
the predominance of special interests or so-called "free-riders" over the common
good; we have too often noted a certain suspicion or lack of trust on the part
of States, as well as on the part of other participants. However, if we really
wish to be effective, we must implement a collective response based on a culture
of solidarity, encounter and dialogue, which should be at the basis of normal
interactions within every family and which requires the full, responsible and
dedicated collaboration of all, according to their possibilities and
In this regard, it seems opportune to recall a concept which was also
developed within the forum of the United Nations, that is, the responsibility to
protect. States have a common responsibility to protect the world climate by
means of mitigation and adaptation measure, as well as by sharing technologies
and "know-how". But above all they have a shared responsibility to protect our
planet and the human family, ensuring present and future generations have the
possibility of living in a safe and worthy environment. The technological and
operational bases needed to facilitate this mutual responsibility are already
available or within our reach. We have the capacity to start and strengthen a
true and beneficial process which will irrigate, as it were, through adaptation
and mitigation activities, the field of economic and technological innovation
where it is possible to cultivate two interconnected objectives: combating
poverty and easing the effects of climate change.
Market forces alone, especially when deprived of a suitable ethical
direction, however, cannot resolve the interdependent crisis concerning global
warming, poverty and exclusion. The greatest challenge lies in the sphere of
human values and human dignity; questions which regard the human dignity of
individuals and of peoples are not able to be reduced to mere technical problems.
In this sense, climate change becomes a question of justice, respect and equity,
a question which must awaken our consciences.
Mr Secretary General,
The ethical motivations behind every complex political decision must be clear.
At present, this means consolidating a profound and far-sighted revision of
models of development and lifestyles, in order to correct their numerous
dysfunctions and deviations (cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter
Veritate, 32). This is also needed due to the many crises which present
society is living in economic, financial, social, cultural and ethical contexts.
Within this perspective, an authentic cultural shift is needed which
reinforces our formative and educational efforts, above all in favour of the
young, towards assuming a sense of responsibility for creation and integral
human development of all people, present and future.
For its part, Vatican City State, though small, is undertaking significant
efforts to reduce its consummation of fossil fuels, through diversification and
energy efficiency projects. However, as the Holy See’s delegation at the COP-19
in Warsaw indicated, "talking about emission reductions is useless if we are not
ready to change our lifestyle and the current dominant models of consumption and
production". The Holy See attaches great importance to the need to promote
education in environmental responsibility, which also seeks to protect the moral
conditions for an authentic human ecology. There are many Catholic educational
institutions, as well as Bishops’ Conferences, dioceses, parishes and Catholic
inspired NGOs committed to this work in the conviction that the deterioration of
nature is directly linked to the culture which shapes human coexistence. Respect
for environmental ecology is a condition of, and conditioned by, respect for
human ecology in society.
Confronting seriously the problem of global warming requires not only
strengthening, deepening and consolidating the political process on a global
level, but also intensifying our commitment to a profound cultural renewal and a
rediscovery of the fundamental values upon which a better future for the entire
human family can be built. The Holy See commits itself to this end, so that, in
this work, the international community may be guided by the ethical imperative
to act, inspired by the principles of solidarity and the promotion of the common
good, in the knowledge that "the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of
the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies" (Evangelii