Called on by Pope Francis to rethink the future of the world
Amidst the pandemic many of the world’s goals on climate change have put to one side but it is our duty as Christians to keep them at the fore. ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it’. Psalm 24:1
As stewards of God’s creation we believe that humans have a responsibility towards the environment. In a message recorded exclusively for the BBC, Pope Francis called on world leaders at the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, to provide ‘effective responses’ to the emergency and offer ‘concrete hope’ to future generations. COP26 stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’ which will be held for the 26th time in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021. The event recognises that Climate Change is now a global priority. Decisions made at COP26 could affect how we heat our homes, what we eat and how we travel.
Speaking from the Vatican for the BBC’s Radio 4 Thought for the Day, the Pope addressed climate change and economic difficulties, and urged the world to respond to them with vision and make radical decisions, so as not to squander the opportunities that the current challenges present.
Pope Francis stressed the need for ‘a renewed sense of shared responsibility for our world’, adding that ‘each of us – whoever we are and wherever we are – can play a role in changing our collective response to the threat. His message was recorded in Italian and lasted almost five minutes. It was broadcast on Friday 29th October on BBC Radio 4 with a voiceover in English. Here is an extract from his broadcast,
‘It is increasingly clear that our use of oil and gas in the West is driving rapid climate change in the whole world. It may not have much effect on us in the short term, other than maybe giving us longer and hotter summers, but the effects of more extreme weather events will fall disproportionately on the very young and very old, on the poor and the marginalised in places such as sub-Saharan Africa.
One quarter of the planet’s population lives in poverty and is extremely vulnerable to changes caused by drought or flooding, to the failure of agricultural crops or to rising sea levels. If we take caring for our global neighbour seriously, we need to consider the impact of our lifestyles on them.
Many of the practical things we can do are not difficult, and indeed are often personally beneficial. Walking to school or church is usually healthier than driving. Changing to low-energy light bulbs, switching the TV off stand-by and insulating our homes will all save us money. So why are they difficult for us?
Partly it is because we are prone to put to the back of our minds the impact of our actions on those we can’t see, such as those in another part of the world or even future generations. But perhaps mainly it is because we are by nature sinful, self-centred in our thoughts and our actions.
Those of us who live in the high-income nations with standards of living purchased through profligate use of natural resources have a particular responsibility in our stewardship: an imperative to care for those elsewhere in the world marginalised by global climate change. Our decision to drive a big car, to fly to Paris for the weekend or to turn up the heating rather than put on a sweater will have a direct impact on someone already living on the edge. Once we are aware of that, how can we ignore it?
Of course Christians will want to do all they can to tell others the Good News of Christ but woe betide us if in telling that Good News we don’t also model it by caring for the world God has entrusted to us’.
In the days ahead we pray that leaders gathered in Glasgow will have the courage to take immediate action on the issue of climate change for the sake of all life.