by Gianni Valente
Dubai (Agenzia Fides) - "Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired. Even so, I am with you, because time is short. I am with you because now more than ever, the future of us all depends on the present that we now choose".
This is how the speech sent by Pope Francis to COP 28, the global summit on climate change which is being held under the aegis of the UN from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, begins.
Pope Francis was supposed to personally take part in COP 28. But the trip of the Sovereign Pontiff was canceled on the advice of doctors due to his state of health. The Pontiff's speech was nevertheless read today, Saturday December 2, during the work of the Conference by His Holiness' Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, before the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, and the audience of more than 200 Heads of State, Government Representatives and international experts gathered in the hall of Expo City in Dubai.
The destruction of the environment and the “illusion of omnipotence ”
The "destruction of the environment" Pope Francis underlines in the first lines of the speech read by Cardinal Parolin "is an offense against God, a sin that is not only personal but also structural, one that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable", and now also threatens "to unleash a conflict between generations".
"It has now become clear", repeats Pope Francis, far from theses aiming to relativize the impact of activities linked to economic development on the fate of the Earth "that the climate change presently taking place stems from the overheating of the planet, caused chiefly by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activity, which in recent decades has proved unsustainable for the eco system". The Bishop of Rome calls into question "the desire to produce and possess which has become an obsession", into an "inordinate greed", that has made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation. The climate, run amok, is crying out to us to halt this "illusion of omnipotence" and recognize "our limits". A recognition hampered and suppressed by the pressure of those who let their narrow interests of lobbying or national power prevail over the common good global.
Pope Francis directly refers to the manipulation operations carried out by lobbies and powers to pursue their perverse choices to the detriment of the environment, including those who today try to justify themselves by calling into question "what others did in the past. The changes to be implemented, the Pope specifies, do not concern the past, but about tomorrow: a tomorrow that, whether we like it or not, will belong to everyone or else to no one".
A taboo to be dispelled on the poor and births
In his speech, delivered in Dubai by Cardinal Parolin, Pope Francis also forcefully rejected attempts to blame the poor or the number of births for the environmental crisis. "These are falsities that must be firmly dispelled", given that "almost half of our world that is more needy is responsible for scarcely 10% of toxic emissions". "The poor", continued the Bishop of Rome, "are the real victims of what is happening: we need think only of the plight of indigenous peoples, deforestation, the tragedies of hunger, water and food insecurity, and forced migration. Births are not a problem, but a resource", while the insidious thing to be monitored is rather represented by "certain ideological and utilitarian models" which "are being imposed with a velvet glove on families and peoples" as real forms of colonization".
"The path to take" adds the Pontiff, "is not to penalize the development of many countries already burdened by grave economic debt but to consider the footprint of a few nations responsible for a deeply troubling "ecological debt" towards many others. From this perspective, it is appropriate to seek appropriate means to erase the economic debt that weighs on different peoples, taking into account precisely the "ecological debt" accumulated by others towards them.
Pope Francis insists that the path forward to confront the serious environmental emergency that puts everyone at risk can only be a shared path. The Pontiff refers several times to multilateralism, the only method for addressing common problems in a multipolar and complex world, and it is "disturbing" that global warming has been accompanied by a "general cooling of multilateralism", and a growing lack of trust within the international community.
Safeguarding the Earth, preserving peace
"The care of Creation", Pope Francis underlined in one of the most intense passages of the speech delivered on his behalf in Dubai by Cardinal Parolin - "is linked to the protection of peace". These are the most urgent issues and they are closely linked. In the wars that bloody the world, including those taking place in Ukraine and the Holy Land, immense resources are wasted on weapons and instruments of death which "destroy lives and devastates our common home" while they would also be valuable in combating the environmental emergency. In his speech, Pope Francis relaunches the proposal, already outlined in the Encyclical "Fratelli Tutti" - to use the money intended for weapons and other military expenditures to create a Global Fund to fight hunger.
The useless agitation of the "fans"
The Pontiff recalls the urgency of a "political change", to lay the foundations of a "new multilateralism" and to move away from particularisms and nationalisms which "are models of the past". In this regard, the Pontiff assures the commitment and contribution of the Catholic Church, also in the field of education and the "promotion of lifestyles" adapted to the protection of the "common home". The Pope, citing the Encyclical Laudato Si' and the recent Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum, also recalls the urgency of moving away from abstract declarations of principle and implementing concrete choices, recalling that various agreements and commitments made so far in international forums such as the one currently underway in Dubai "have been poorly implemented, due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance" (Laudato Si', 167).
Operational choices - the Pope hoped in his speech delivered in Dubai by Cardinal Parolin - must be achieved in four sectors: energy efficiency; renewable sources; the elimination of fossil fuels; and education in lifestyles that are less dependent on the latter. While for the Sovereign Pontiff, the media wars between "fans bases" where "prophets of doom and indifferent bystanders, radical environmentalists and climate change deniers" confront each other seem totally sterile, since theatrical oppositions do not lead to any solution.
Praying with Saint Francis
The Pontiff's speech at COP 28 concludes with an appeal to ensure that 2024 marks a turning point, and introduces as a sign of good omen a suggestive reference to an episode in the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, which occured in 1224. "In that year - recalls the Pope who bears his name - Francis of Assisi composed his “Canticle of the Creatures”. By then Francis was completely blind, and after a night of physical suffering, his spirits were elevated by a mystical experience. He then turned to praise the Most High for all those creatures that he could no longer see, but knew that they were his brothers and sisters, since they came forth from the same Father and were shared with other men and women". Shortly thereafter, Francis added a stanza in which he praised God for those who forgive; he did this in order to settle – successfully – an unbecoming conflict between the civil authorities and the local bishop. I too, who bear the name Francis", concludes the Bishop of Rome "with the heartfelt urgency of a prayer, want to leave you with this message: Let us leave behind our divisions and unite our forces! And with God’s help, let us emerge from the dark night of wars and environmental devastation in order to turn our common future into the dawn of a new and radiant day". (Agenzia Fides, 2/12/2023)