Update: Pope Francis to attend COP28 climate change conference in Dubai in December

Pope Francis Pope Francis presides over his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Oct. 18, 2023. | Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis said in an Italian television interview on Wednesday that he intends to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for the COP28 climate change conference in early December.

“I believe I depart on the 1st [of December] and stay until the 3rd. I’ll be there three days,” the pope said on the Italian state television network RAI in an interview broadcast on the evening of Nov. 1.

Francis did not provide further details on the schedule of the trip, which was officially announced by the Vatican on Nov. 3.

The pope met the president-designate of COP28 UAE, Sultan Al Jaber, at the Vatican in mid-October. The climate change summit will take place at the Expo City Dubai Nov. 30–Dec. 12.

The United Nations annual climate change conference, known as the “Conference of the Parties” (COP), includes governments that have signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and/or the Paris Agreement.

The summit, held in a different country every year, is an opportunity for world leaders, representing state and nonstate actors, to meet and discuss policy goals that seek to establish common — and often ambitious — goals for climate change mitigation.

It will be Pope Francis’ second time traveling to the Middle Eastern country. In February 2019, he visited the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, to promote interreligious dialogue and support the small Christian minority.

During the Feb. 3–5, 2019, trip, he signed the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” with the grand imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb.

Francis was the first pope to ever visit the Arabian peninsula.

Climate issues and the environment have been a priority of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

On Oct. 4, he released his second major document on the topic, the apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum (“Praise God”), in which he warned of “grave consequences” if humanity continues to ignore the threat of climate change.

In the Nov. 1 interview with RAI, Pope Francis recalled how he had decided to write his first document on the topic, the 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, ahead of the COP21 summit in Paris.

“The Paris meeting was the best meeting of all,” he said, because “after Paris everyone went backwards and it takes courage to move forward in this.”

This story was updated at 7:24am EDT on Nov. 3, 2023, with the information that the Vatican had officially announced the trip.

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