Caritas Urges Climate Policies with Social Justice

Statement on Opening of UN CO26 Conference on Climate Change

SCaritas Climate Policies
Planeta Tierra © Pexels. Valentin Antonucci

With the opening of the UN CO26 conference on climate change, Caritas Internationalis issued the following statement calling on governments to implement climate policies that incorporate social justice.


On the occasion of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, opening today, 31 October, in Glasgow, Caritas Internationalis asks governments to adopt policies that ensure environmental care and social justice.

The Confederation’s 162 Caritas members – some of whom will be present at COP26 – operate around the world and are at the forefront of responding to the dramatic consequences of climate change that are causing great suffering for many communities. Therefore, in line with the Encyclical Laudato Si’, Caritas Internationalis reiterates its call for climate justice and policies that protect the most vulnerable, especially migrants.

Devastating storms, water, and soil salinization due to sea-level rise and severe flooding have affected many communities,” said Aloysius John, Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis. “Climate change has already produced irreparable impacts in many parts of the world where adaptation is the main challenge for vulnerable local populations. Even though they are not responsible for the climate crisis, these communities are forced to bear the burdens in terms of loss of housing, livelihoods, living environments and infrastructure”.

Extreme weather conditions are pushing populations to migrate or forcible relocation, resulting in a loss of cultural and social identity in their communities. “Yet, to date, no refugee status or other international protection is granted to these people, who are deprived of fundamental rights such as a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Fundamental rights that governments are obliged to observe and fulfill through their climate action. As the Holy Father states in his encyclical Laudato si’, the developed countries of the global North cannot ignore their ecological debt to the global South,” adds Aloysius John.

Caritas Internationalis reiterates that it is the responsibility of States to act urgently before it is too late. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about new priorities, this should not be used as an excuse to postpone decisions and further delay climate action any further. On the contrary, it should spur a collective commitment to adopt a new development model based on clean and renewable energy sources, a more inclusive economy, and greater justice, as well as concrete measures in terms of poverty reduction and debt cancellation. As Pope Francis pointed out in his recent message to the BBC network, “moments of difficulty” such as the COVID-19 pandemic “also present opportunities, opportunities that we must not waste”.

Climate funding tends to focus excessively on large-scale infrastructure and does not have local climate adaptation strategies as its primary objective. There is an urgent need for climate funds to reach local communities to realize grassroots adaptation and provide them with more control over their most immediate priorities and needs.

At this crucial moment, it is of great importance that States Parties to the UN climate negotiations recognize their moral and legal obligations to the most affected communities and future generations. Caritas Internationalis launches a moral call for unconditional engagement and responsibility of richer States to protect poorer populations in developing countries, which are rendered vulnerable due to climate change, even though they are not responsible for it.

The Confederation, therefore, urges these governments to:

 – To develop and promote pro-poor and human rights-based climate policies that enable the poor to live in dignity, adapt, and be resilient to adverse climate impacts.

– to honor their pledges to provide much-needed financial support to the poorest countries by addressing the issue of Loss and Damage as a priority, allocating specific climate finance, and granting special protection to people and communities displaced within and across countries due to climate change adverse effects 

–      to engage and pursue genuine cooperation with civil society organizations, in particular, faith-based organisations and local Churches that have strong relations with local communities