Pope Francis puts climate change on the agenda for the Church – and the world

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The Green Pope and His Climate Change Discourse

It’s not news that Pope Francis has green leanings. Addressing a crowd in Rome earlier this year, he head of the Catholic Church spoke bluntly about the dangers posed by human-caused climate change. “If we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us,” he said, going on to name environmental stewardship as a key responsibility of the Church and its faithful.

The Pope has had the environment on the agenda since his inauguration in 2013. But even back when Francis was still Cardinal Bergoglio, the Vatican was already supporting cleaner energy. The most obvious example of this was the installation of a 100 megawatt rooftop solar array to meet the bulk of the micro-state’s energy needs. This act, along with speeches he made, earned then-Pope Benedict the nickname ‘The Green Pope’.

The Paris Climate Talks Ahead, A Carbon Footprint Above

Yet Pope Francis is certainly no slouch when it comes to the environment, and is likely to earn a similar title in due time. Ready to amplify the Church’s environmental messaging in the coming year, he has already begun positioning himself to become a key influencer ahead of the Climate Summit to be held in Paris next December. Every year since 1992, the world’s nations have met at these summits with the aim of creating an international legal framework through which to address climate change. They have hitherto been unsuccessful in reaching an accord.

All the while, reports about the state of the climate become more dire, and the need to act quickly more acute. Francis is bringing the weight and influence of his position to the process in hopes of catalyzing action.

According to the Guardian, the Pope is currently in the process of composing an edict (a document called an ‘encyclical’) which will invoke the Church’s clergy and lay followers to act to reduce their collective carbon footprint. The potential impact of the Pope’s words is enormous: there are over 1.23 Catholics around the world, comprising roughly 17% of the world’s population.

But Francis looks set to bring many more than just his own flock into the fold. The Pope is said to be planning a meeting with other religious leaders at the UN General Assembly in September in order to discuss climate change and its role in the global rich-poor divide. Although there are few details as of yet, it is possible to glean from his track record that he will ask them to join forces in the fight to reduce global carbon emissions.

Will the Pope’s efforts help to bring about a global climate treaty? It may be an uphill battle, but having Francis’ charisma and office behind a push for one certainly can’t hurt.

Top image by Jeon Han, via Wikipedia

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