ROME (CNS) – The two countries that co-chair the United Nations Climate Change Conference rely on the persuasive power and moral appeal of religious leaders to help convince governments around the world to set high standards in their commitment to mitigate climate change.
The Embassies of the United Kingdom and Italy to the Holy See, as well as the Vatican, invited nearly 40 leaders of the world’s major religions, as well as top scientists, to Rome to remind world leaders of their responsibility to help take care of the planet, said Christopher Trott, British Ambassador to the Holy See.
He told Catholic News Service on September 27 that he hoped a united appeal would remind political leaders “that in fact the world is watching and that it not only matters in the halls of power, it actually matters in the halls of power. ‘entire world population’. since more than 70% of the world’s population identifies with a religious belief.
The meeting, “Faith and science: towards the COP26”, was scheduled for October 4 – the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology – before the UN summit from November 1 to 12 in Glasgow , where parties from 197 nations are expected to come to an agreement on how to tackle the threat of climate change. The United Kingdom chairs the presidency of COP26, in partnership with Italy.
Trott said his predecessor, Sally Axworthy, and others who started planning the interfaith meeting saw the real impact of Pope Francis with his strong environmental statements and his ‘Laudato Si’ encyclical, before the COP21 in Paris in 2015.
The pope’s voice made the difference, he said, as the goals set in the Paris Agreement “were slightly more ambitious than they could have been otherwise … and we hope the same will apply again ”with the added weight of people representing all countries of the world. major denominations as well as scientists.
“Scientists recognize that the world must do something in response to climate change in order to prevent the situation from getting worse, but at the same time, this vision of protecting the planet is something that is at the heart of many things. . beliefs, ”he said.
Trott said they hope political leaders will understand that the voice of religious leaders matters and that they will not want their constituents to see them as ignoring or acting against “the leaders of the faith their people adhere to.”
“So we hope that there will be some kind of moral pressure on them to compromise when the negotiation is difficult,” he added.
The other reason why religious leaders are important, he said, is that they can communicate to their congregations how to understand the challenges the world faces and what kind of responses are needed.
“In a way, what they can say to political leaders is: ‘You have to set yourself ambitious goals and then we can help you sell these ambitious goals to our faithful,” he said. he declares.
Religious leaders can also help dispel misinformation about climate change, he said.
Religious leaders are often “better equipped” than governments to respond to skepticism, explain why specific action is needed, and “recognize that we are in a potential crisis, some sort of existential crisis, some kind of crisis that is difficult to quantify immediately but that we are facing at this difficult time and we now have the opportunity to react at this time, which we will not always have, ”said Trott.
“It’s about not selling the idea of climate change,” he added, “but about selling the idea that we have to respond in our individual lives as well as at the government level to this crisis which, I think, makes the message of religious leaders so powerful. “
With a long career in diplomatic posts and missions in Africa and Asia, Trott said he witnessed the devastating effects of climate change most brutally when he briefly served as High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
“I went with a television crew and representatives of the Anglican Church to an island that was the childhood home of an Anglican priest who is now based in the UK and that island is now under water; there remains a house on this island ”where, decades before, a few hundred people had lived, he said.
Rising sea levels, as well as desertification across the Sahel in Africa, will be “at the back of my mind as I think about the COP,” he said.
“I think the Holy Father thinks a lot about the impact on the most vulnerable countries of climate change, which is why the Vatican is very focused on the ambitions we set for ourselves in terms of adaptation, in terms of support to vulnerable countries in this agreement. we hope to reach Glasgow, ”he added.
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