Dr Lorna Gold, chief executive of FaithInvest, and a member of the Laudato Si Working Group of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, has written about the consequences of Pope Francis not being available, on medical advice, to attend COP28 in Dubai.
Dr Gold said, “Last week, Pope Francis announced that he could no longer travel to the UN climate talks in Dubai due to illness. This is perhaps not a surprise. The Pope, who only has one functioning lung, will be 87 on the 17 December and is suffering from lung inflammation. There has been widespread sadness regarding the Pope’s absence due to his outspoken views on climate change, but perhaps he has had a lucky escape.
“Many negotiators were hoping for a Christmas miracle from the Pope but, sadly, given recent scandals regarding the COP presidency, not even he would have been able to salvage the COP now. By simply being there in such a high profile role, moreover, he risked providing moral cover – ‘faith wash’ as some have called it – for a round of talks which is looking increasingly discredited.
“Pope Francis does not need to travel to Dubai for his views to be heard. The official Catholic position will be well represented by the Vatican State which is now a formal party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -UNFCCC. Moreover, his views on the climate crisis are no secret. He wrote his ground-breaking letter on the environment, Laudato Si’ (Praise Be), just before the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015. He addressed this letter to ‘all people on the planet’ and called on everyone to embrace the need for change.”
Dr Gold continued, “Despite significant internal opposition in some quarters, he has worked overtime over the past eight years to advocate for ‘ecological conversion’ and ‘integral ecology’. He has supported the emerging Laudato Si’ Movement (even naming it) and adopted new initiatives such as the annual Season of Creation and an online Church-wide sustainability platform known as the ‘Laudato Si Action Platform’.
“Since it was launched in late 2022, the hugely popular platform has signed up over 8,000 Catholic institutions to create new sustainability plans. The Pope has even spearheaded initiatives in the Vatican state such as a partnership to decarbonise the Vatican, starting with Saint Peters’ Basilica. Much remains to be done to mobilise his 1.2 billion global flock, but the foundations have now been laid.
“Pope Francis’ deep concern about the lack of political will ahead of COP28 and the fractious global context in which climate is being discussed, moreover, led him to double down on his climate message. On 4 October, he published a new Apostolic letter, Laudate Deum (Praise God), which has caused a stir in political and Church circles. In this new letter he clarifies a number of points in Laudato Si’ and raises some major concerns ahead of COP28. He calls out specifically the influence of corporate interests in multilateral processes at COPs.”
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