Article published by the Irish Times Tue Nov 24th 2015:
Pope Francis has focused much attention on issues that are universal to us all and has sought to inspire and offer leadership. What he has said has resonated meaningfully with believers and non-believers alike.
Environmental care is one such universal issue.
His recent encyclical Laudato Si, which addressed the dangers of climate change, was addressed “to every person living on this planet”.
It was a very deliberate move to highlight the fact that the issues covered in the encyclical – how human greed threatens to destroy the planet on which we live – are fundamental to us all.
Earth is our shared inheritance. Protecting the Earth is not the duty of any one group. Environmentalism is no longer an issue for environmentalists. It is the rallying cry for anybody who cares about justice, equality and the long- term prospects of life on this planet.
Christian faith tells us that Earth was created for the benefit of everyone and that our duty is to pass it to the next generation in good health. We are caretakers of the planet.
Christian concern over environmental degradation is twofold.
First, it is evident the Earth’s condition is worsening and we are failing future generations. Second, this degradation is benefitting a minority of people and punishing the great majority; thus the fruits of our planet are not being used equally.
How can we as Christians respond to this challenge? Pope Francis challenges us to examine our own lives, to live differently so that our planet is not harmed and to ensure that any ecological solution is based on social justice which takes into account the rights of the poor and underprivileged. He also urges us to engage politically with decisions that affect us all.
On November 30th, political leaders from around the world will gather in Paris to debate a response to a climate crisis that is affecting tens of millions of people across Africa, Asia and Latin America who are suffering food shortages due to drought, with many more vulnerable to extreme weather.
There is now agreement among all but a tiny minority that climate change is real, man-made and urgent. We now need political will to take action that will limit global temperature increases.
We need a political break-through in Paris to begin addressing this injustice. It is essential the negotiations result in an enforceable agreement that protects our common home and its inhabitants. It must put the common good ahead of narrow, short-term, national interests.
Harmony with nature
Rooted in ethics and morals, this agreement should be based on a vision that recognises the need to live in harmony with nature, and human solidarity to guarantee the fulfilment of human rights.
We must decarbonise our society by mid-century in order to protect vulnerable people, including future generations, whether they are at risk of flooding in Cork or hunger in Malawi.
Central to this is putting an end to the fossil fuel era, and we must do this by the middle of this century. We must ensure future generations do not pay a terrible price for our failure to protect this planet.
Ireland must play its role in ensuring the Paris summit produces a legally binding global agreement with ambitious mitigation commitments and actions form all countries.
Next Sunday, the eve of the Paris summit, people will gather in Belfast, Cork and Dublin to make their voices and the voices of those without a voice – heard on this issue. They will come from a wide range of organisations, backgrounds and beliefs, but they will stand together to say this is a rallying cry we all must answer. We must reject the language of “us” and “them”.
We are one human family. This is our one shared home and we are all responsible for keeping it safe.
Bishop William Crean is Bishop of Cloyne and chairman of Trocaire
Info: The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015.