At 11:30 am today, Thursday, June 17, 2021, the presentation conference took place live, from the Holy See Press Office, of the climate change meeting entitled “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” organized by the Embassies of the United Kingdom and Italy to the Holy See. The meeting is scheduled for October 4 in Rome, with the participation of religious leaders and scientists from around the world
Taking part during the presentation were Monsignor Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States; Sally Jane Axworthy, Ambassadress of Great Britain, and Pietro Sebastiani, Ambassador of Italy.
Sally Jane Axworthy
In her intervention, the UK’s Ambassadress said that we “have the moral obligation to protect the planet and those most affected by the climate crisis, in particular indigenous peoples, developing small insular States and less developed countries.”
However, “time is running out. Climate change is still not going in the right direction. Global temperatures have increased more than one degree, and we are headed for an increase of more than two degrees,” said the Ambassadress, who confirmed that this would cause a high percentage of the population being exposed to extreme heat, serious drought, floods, low crop yields, loss of part of the livestock, larger deserts, more fires, and rising sea levels.
Axworthy explained that, among the objectives of COP26, is the reduction of emissions, reaching a zero quota in 2050; international support to the most vulnerable from climate change; collection of at least US$100 billion annually to finance developing countries and finalize the rules of implementation of the Paris Agreement on the carbon market and transparency of Reports.
In regard to the Church, she reaffirmed the role of religious leaders in giving impetus to COP21 with, for example, Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ or the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed by the Holy Father and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar.
In regard to the initiative, the British diplomat highlighted the invitation to almost 40 religious leaders to attend COP26, asking them to expound their own Theology on the environment, and to explain the measures they have taken to protect the environment and articulate what they want for the future.”
Finally, she explained that there “has been a notable convergence of opinions. All creeds and systems of beliefs consider nature to be sacred and that it is our duty to protect the environment. Many speakers have stressed the inter-dependence of human beings and nature, and said that if we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.”
At the beginning of his address, the Italian Ambassador explained how the meeting “was born from the desire to reflect further, to develop and to compare sensibility for environmental topics, which different religions and spiritual traditions share, and thus give an unprecedented impulse to COP26.”
“It will also be an opportunity to promote a debate on ecological topics related to those of social justice, and to reflect on the development model, which cannot continue to produce an unsustainable environmental cost and increase the social and economic inequalities, aspects that have been aggravated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also manifested the inequality in access to health care,” he added.
Sebastiani then talked about the preparatory events of the Conference, to be held in Italy. “From September 30 to October 2 a Pre-COP in Milan, namely, a preparatory meeting of Ministers, which is held traditionally one month before a COP,” and “from September 28-30 Milan will also hold the event ‘Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition,’ which is also linked to the Pre-COP” meeting.
Sebastiani said that to “fill the ‘void’ generated by the postponement of the COP26 events due to the pandemic, as early as June 2020 the Minister of the Environment initiated an important program of virtual events entitled ‘Youth4Climate’: Live Series.”
From October 7-8 Italy will hold a high-level ministerial event in Rome on environmental and climatic challenges in Africa (Meetings with Africa), added the Italian Ambassador.
All these events “were conceived as an opportunity to broaden the perspective of the aspiration issue to all actors involved in global climate action: in addition to young people, the civil society, the business world, the academic world, local and regional authorities, and institutions.”
Finally, the diplomat highlighted the objectives of the October 4 meeting: “Religious leaders will be able to explain our common duty to address climate change, encouraging National Governments to increase their aspirations in regard to specified contributions, at the national level, to the objectives of the Paris Agreement,” and “encourage religions to take measures to halt the rise in global temperatures.”
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester