Laudato Si and the Path to COP 22
Fr. Seán McDonagh, SSC
On 28 September 2016, I attended a Joint Consultation on ‘Laudato Si’ and the Path to COP 22’ organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences. The meeting took place at the Casina Pio IV in the Vatican.
One of the speakers was Prof. Ramanathan Veerabhadran, the Professor of Applied Ocean Sciences and director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. In his opinion “the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming is the most important environmental issue facing the world today.”  He spoke on “the Encyclical and the current horizons of scientific research.” Dr Hoesung Lee, the current Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spoke about the IPCC process since it was sent up in 1988 and the concerns which will appear in the 6th Assessment Report which is due in 2018. In the wake of the Paris agreement in December 2015 he commented that science and economics are very clear: “we must act now” on climate change, and in doing so “we can build a better world”. As the meeting ended Pope Francis dropped by and spoke passionately about protecting our environment.
At the end of the meeting the group released this document in preparation for the COP 22 which will take place in Marraakesh from November 7 to 18th 2016. “ The Paris Climate Agreement is historic. For the first time since the signing of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), all countries have agreed to act in order to protect the planet. The core goals include: (1) keeping warming to “well below 2-degrees C” and “to pursue efforts to keep below 1.5-degree C”; (2) enabling countries to adapt to the adverse impacts already underway; and (3) ensuring the flow of fair and equitable financing to achieve the climate goals.
COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, November 7-18, 2016, will be the first meeting of the Parties since the Paris Agreement. We urge all the signatories of the Paris Agreement to move forward together with determination, urgency, shared values and a common global plan. We emphasize the following opportunities and priorities.
- First, the Paris Climate Agreement should be understood as a pillar of the world’s overarching commitment to integral and sustainable human development, including the universally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the words of Laudato Si’, the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement reflect the need for “one world with a common plan.”
- Second, the Paris Climate Agreement should be put into force in 2016, with countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions depositing their instruments of ratification this year;
- Third, all signatory countries should insist on the universality of the agreement. The Paris Agreement is a common plan for our common home. No individual country should absent itself from the timely ratification and implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement;
- Fourth, all countries should participate in COP22 with the firm intention of adopting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to 2030 and Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) to 2050 that are sufficiently bold to achieve the limits on global warming in the Paris Agreement;
- Fifth, technical experts from all signatory countries should participate in the Low-Emission Solutions Conference (LESC) at COP22, hosted by the Government of Morocco for the purpose of disseminating best practices and ideas on how best to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
- Sixth, all signatory countries should professionally address the key roles of their national energy systems, national agriculture systems, and land use policies, in order to implement the Paris Agreement objectives;
- Seventh, in implementing national land use policies, governments, business, and civil society should aim for several crucial objectives: to end deforestation; restore degraded lands; protect biodiversity and ecosystems; and crucially, to empower indigenous populations who are often the stewards of the threatened lands;
- Eighth, all countries should agree in good faith to cooperate on adequate Climate Financing, with the high-income countries honoring their long-standing pledges in transparency and sincerity to provide at least $100 billion per year by 2020 to the low-income countries to finance energy transformation, land restoration, and adaptation and resilience;
- Ninth, all signatories should honor the collective commitment to implement international mechanisms for “Losses and Damages,” and notably to compensate countries that are suffering extreme weather and climate events (including heat waves, epidemic diseases, rising sea levels, droughts, floods, and extreme tropical cyclones) linked to human-induced climate change.
- Tenth, all stakeholders, including governments, business, and civil society, should promote the education of today’s young people in the sciences and ethical values of integral human development and sustainable development. All educational institutions should strive to update their curricula and teaching programs to educate young people in these great challenges.”
 “Global Warming” (PDF). Retrieved 10 October 2008.
I waited a week to see if anyone would chime in on the greatest topic of our lives. Where is the passion?
I’m having a real hard time accepting that 2030 is a destination for anyone at this rate. There is no science that can properly predict that this is even a legitimate timeline. So in the absence of a legitimate timeline, one would think that we would be throwing everything we’ve got at it, right? Is this everything we’ve got? Do we still think we’ve got a shot at heaven, here?
My prayers for the Roman Catholic Church to get behind an eco-revolution on the planet is far from the Pope personally showing any type of support for a bureaucratic process that some believe is doomed to fail as Kyoto proved. All bureaucrats are connected on a mimetic plane – they are not to be trusted with the well-being of earth’s inhabitants, in my opinion. The clerically inclined government representative has been a let down for too long. In the real world, they are an accountant and at best a lawyer lacking the imagination to cut through prudent procedure to get to the heart of the problem.
Not to mention, the same countries that are pining for these COP targets in one hand are currently shaking on deals for pipelines, petroleum exploration, and off-shore drilling with the other. To this day, we continue to refer to these people in leadership positions as leaders when the truth is they will be the last in line to feel the effects of climate change. From an economic and cultural aspect, their future, despite what it might look like for one third of the planet in the short term, still looks pretty good.
If the Roman Catholic Church agrees to immediately make plans to “green” one third of their 300,000 locations worldwide, thereby introducing communities to cooperative run solar farms and the economic benefits of self-sustainable living, we might have an outside shot of turning this thing around for future generations. This is a 7 year plan at best. In every parish the church decides to operate a community run solar farm to offset their footprint, 10 more will be born from church members in the years to follow.
How can the Pope produce Laudato si’ and not expect someone in the audience to judge the Church under stricter guidelines? Autonomous, self- sustainable community creation is what is needed more than any government induced target. The world is mimetic and to swing out of that tide, a new model has to be presented that people will aspire to. We have a chance to make this right but how we do it is just as important. A parish properly led can make all the difference in the world.
The Paris agreement is no pillar of commitment. It is simply an admission that those of us who have the least amount of time left on this planet have been completely irresponsible in the way that we have conducted our business. Unethical doesn’t even cover it.
The Church, for as long as I can remember, has been the most powerful organisation in the world with the furthest reach and network of like minded individuals. It has profited greatly from those who reap the world’s resources. Some could say that it has collectively been the greatest of beneficiaries from the wealth of the slickest benefactor, or am I off? That is a huge burden. Born and baptised, our guilt is from association yet we are not free from torment nor are we perfect. What we need right now is to be perfectly faithful I guess.
So to any one in attendance who thinks that the gates have propped open slightly with a Paris agreement and a 14 year timeline on something that should have taken place 20 years ago, technologically speaking, I am sorry to say, we might be sadly mistaken.
The entire Church could fund-raise for 1 year, convert 100,000 locations the year after and complete the rest in the five years to follow. If you don’t believe in Heaven, seeing something like this take place might change your mind. But then again, this wouldn’t be a “priest” led initiative – you’d have to have a great deal of help and coordination from lay groups. You would simply have to agree to have someone provide a helping hand and have faith.
Are there any priests out there who would agree to this fund-raising initiative? In North America, we need all the help we can get. If there is not a clergy body creating a trend worldwide, a model to follow so to speak, this could stall.
Speak now or forever hold your peace. Tough question because “greening” the parish is something a bishop, in his right mind, couldn’t object to. I’m sure the Pope would be all for it, right?