Vatican City: United Call for Moral Awakening on Climate Change

vaticanclimate UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened a consultation at the Vatican hosted by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences, in consultation with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and Religions for Peace International. The consultation focused squarely on the moral and religious dimensions of climate change and sustainable development, especially through its effect on the world’s poor.

This September the United Nations will adopt a post-2015 sustainable development agenda, consisting of 17 goals aimed at ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable and combating climate change.

This December in Paris, 196 countries will hopefully agree on an urgently-needed, bold universal climate change agreement.

Addressing the challenges of preserving our earth will require concerted action on the scientific, economic, political and-above all-moral and religious levels. The “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development” consultation held at the Vatican on 28 April was designed to advance interaction across these levels.

The gathering brought together senior Vatican officials, heads of states, the Secretary General of the United Nations, leading thinkers in science, economics and business, and RfP senior religious leaders representing the world’s major traditions.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the consultation.

“Climate change is a moral issue,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared. “We have a profound responsibility to the fragile web of life on this Earth, and to this generation and those that will follow.” Amplifying the moral dimension, he stressed that “those who suffer first and worst are those who did least to cause it: the poor and most vulnerable members of society.”

H.E. Peter Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, delivered an opening keynote speech after H.E. Ban Ki-moon. Drawing on Hebrew-Christian scriptures, Cardinal Turkson noted that the lesson from the Garden of Eden still rings true today, “pride, hubris, self-centeredness are always perilous, indeed destructive.” In contrast to an ethos of selfishness and individualism, Cardinal Turkson called for a course correction – toward the idea of sustainable development – a holistic and ethical approach that links economic prosperity, social inclusion, and protection of the natural world.

Following up on this theme, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute, [International Trustee of Religions for Peace] noted that sustainable development is the defining challenge of our time. We have the technological, economic, and financial means to solve our problems. We must now rise to the moral challenge, he stressed.

In his opening remarks, Dr. William Vendley [Secretary General of Religions for Peace] emphasised three interlocking dimensions that frame the moral imperative among the world’s religions. First, the reality of self-contradiction: we use high-carbon energy to advance human flourishing, but this high-carbon energy threatens the intricate web of life that supports the possibility of human existence. Second, climate change is having a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable people. And third, those with the greatest capacity to limit climate change – those whose well-being is secure and whose lifestyles include the abundant waste of energy – have the greatest responsibility to act.

Religions for Peace Religious Leaders

During the course of the day, experts presented the latest developments in climate science, and religious leaders drew from the deep wells of their own distinct traditions to empathize the clear moral imperative to protect the earth and halt climate change. The leaders of the different religions, invited by RfP, each made compelling presentations rooted in their own traditions.

Source: Religions for Peace International