Pope Francis and religious leaders from across the world appealed on Monday for countries to “achieve net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible.”
They made the appeal on Oct. 4 in a joint message signed in the Vatican’s Hall of Benediction, which was decorated with plants to mark the occasion.
“The world is called to achieve net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible, with wealthier countries taking the lead in reducing their own emissions and in financing emission reductions from poorer nations,” they said in the 2,000-word appeal signed by almost 40 faith leaders.
Pope Francis presented the signed text to Alok Sharma, president of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), and Italy’s foreign minister Luigi Di Maio.
“It is important that all governments adopt a trajectory that will limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5°C [2.7°F] above pre-industrial levels,” the leaders wrote.
“To achieve these goals of the  Paris Agreement, the COP26 Summit should deliver ambitious short-term actions from all nations with differentiated responsibilities.”
Those present at the live-streamed event included Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Russian Orthodox leader Metropolitan Hilarion, and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar.
They had gathered at the Vatican for the meeting “Faith and Science: towards COP26,” promoted by the British and Italian embassies to the Holy See. The summit brought together religious leaders and scientists ahead of the climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
The meeting saw brief addresses by faith leaders, as well as Alok Sharma.
“We need scientists, with their academic authority, to amplify further their voices in the public debate, and faith leaders to use their moral leadership to make the case for action,” he said.
“This appeal does just that, with immense clarity and power.”
“Forty faith leaders have come together, and working with scientists, have created a powerful call to action for the world.”
When it was Pope Francis’ turn to speak, he said he had decided not to read his address aloud to leave for more time to hear from others.
In the written text of his address, shared with participants, he highlighted three concepts.
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“Openness to interdependence and sharing, the dynamism of love and a call to respect. These are, I believe, three interpretative keys that can shed light on our efforts to care for our common home,” he said.
“COP26 in Glasgow represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations. We want to accompany it with our commitment and our spiritual closeness.”
Pope Francis said earlier this month that he hoped to travel to Scotland to take part in the conference.
“It all depends on how I feel at the time. But in fact, my speech is already being prepared, and the plan is to be there,” he said.
Francis has sought to galvanize efforts to protect the environment since his election in 2013. He issued the encyclicalLaudato si’ in 2015, ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, which negotiated the Paris Agreement.
The pope issued an unprecedented joint message on the environment on Sept. 7 this year, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of the global Anglican Communion, and the Ecumenical Patriarch.
“As leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” the leaders of world’s three largest Christian communions said.
Last week, the pope urged young climate activists attending the Youth4Climate event in Milan, Italy, to recognize that “technical and political solutions are not enough” to foster harmony between people and the environment.
The religious leaders attending Monday’s event each poured a cup of soil into a potted olive tree that will be planted in the Vatican Gardens.
They included representatives of Shi’a Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and Jainism.
In their joint appeal, they said: “Scientists have warned us that there might be only one decade left to restore the planet.”
“We plead with the international community, gathered at COP26, to take speedy, responsible, and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship.”
“We appeal to everyone on this planet to join us on this common journey, knowing well that what we can achieve depends not only on opportunities and resources, but also on hope, courage, solidarity, and goodwill.”
“In an age fraught with division and despair, we look with hope and unity to the future. We seek to serve the people of the world, particularly the poor and the future generations, by encouraging a prophetic vision, a creative, respectful, and courageous action for the sake of the Earth, our common home.”
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