CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
East Asian bishops sign Catholic Climate Petition in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (SE): A gathering sponsored by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences held at the Honeyville Canossian Retreat House in Hong Kong from September 8 to 10 endorsed the Global Catholic Climate Movement Climate Petition urging world leaders to adopt a strong and ambitious climate treaty at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to be held in Paris in December this year.

The petition supports Pope Francis’ call for climate action outlined in his recent encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si). The encyclical calls for an ecological conversion, which Father Pat McMullan, a delegate from South Korea, described as redefining the old adage of no salvation outside the Church, into a much more exciting and inclusive no salvation outside the earth.

The petition was signed at the meeting by Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, from Hong Kong; Bishop Peter Kang U-il, from Jeju in South Korea; Bishop Isao Kikuchi, the president of Caritas Asia and Japan; Bishop Philip Huang Jaw-ming, from Hualian in Taiwan; and Oscar Cardinal Gracias, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences; all signed the petition on behalf of the Church in east Asia.

The petition is urging world leaders to agree on a strategy to keep the global average temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius of its pre-industrial levels and was endorsed by Pope Francis in May this year.

The meeting voiced concern at what it described as the serious risk of climate change, citing unusual weather patterns across Asia that have been evident in recent years and called for the Green Climate Fund, adopted in 2010 to raise money for adaptation and mitigation of the negative effects of climate change on poorer regions.

Developed nations promised to raise US$100 billion ($774.5 billion) by 2020, but to date, the money has been slow in coming.

Ciara Shannon, the Asian coordinator of OurVoices, quoted the president of France, François Hollande, as saying, “Without the US$100 billion, there will be no deal at COP21 in Paris in December.”

Father McMullan commented that he believes his fear is well founded, as Paris will probably degenerate into an undignified and unresolved squabble over carbon, whereas the real question that should be asked is what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us.

The gathering pointed to the deadly heatwaves in India over the recent summer, widespread drought in Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam, as well as in Thailand, which has been forced to resort to the highly unusual practice of water rationing.

These extremes of weather are believed by scientists to be compounded by an emerging periodic El Niño weather event, which is characterised by the warming of ocean temperatures.

This is expected to impact most severely on the poorer regions of Asia well into next year, with food, water and energy shortages that will require special measures to mitigate, especially in places with flimsy and inadequate infrastructures.

The Hong Kong gathering pointed to the excessive damage and human suffering brought on by the destruction of the environment, turning what used to be ordinary climactic events into monumental disasters.

It cited the indiscriminate and irresponsible denuding of forests which has led to floods, landslides, droughts and soil erosion, causing a loss of life-systems.

It also pointed to the increasing number of ecological refugees searching for safer places to live away from floods and rising sea levels. “Climate change has wreaked havoc on agricultural production and sources of livelihood,” the position paper for the conference notes.

Father McMullan told the Sunday Examiner that this demands attention be paid to the broader vision of our common home by definitively linking the rights of the poor, those of generations yet to be born and the rights of the planet itself.

He quotes the encyclical as a call to make “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.”

The gathering in Hong Kong expressed the view that the call to action is urgent and Shannon commented, “No city is safe from natural hazards, but they can be more resilient. As Asian urban powerhouses advance, their fortitude and growth will be at the heart of the world’s most important social and economic advancements and challenges. Let’s hope more money comes forward soon.”

Lou Arsenio, a co-founder and of the Ecology Ministry in the archdiocese of Manila, The Philippines, said, “We are delighted to see east Asian bishops and Oscar Cardinal Gracias support the Global Catholic Climate Petition. Their support adds to that of (Luis) Cardinal Tagle and over 1,000 Filipino priests, religious and lay leaders that signed the petition in July 2015 when Cardinal Tagle encouraging Catholic Filipinos to take action and signed the petition.”

Shannon said that the worrying aspect is that many people in Asia are not aware that climate change poses a significant threat to their families, homes, livelihoods and future economic growth.

“In many cities across Asia there is a limited capacity to identify their vulnerabilities and there is a lack of coordinated planning on pathways to adapt, along with limited expertise to make changes and a lack of institutional and funding capacity,” the Irish climate advocate noted.

She pointed out that with the Asian Development Bank estimating that by 2025 the annual bill for cleaning up after climate disasters will reach US$25 billion ($193.63 billion), now is the time to act.

Shannon said that the involvement of the Church in this issue is a must and all Christians must realise that climate change is not just a political issue, but also a religious issue and one of justice, as it is necessary to reinforce that it is wrong to steal from the next generation by destroying its heritage.

The Climate Change Desk at the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences says that without the effective involvement of grass roots groups, both in the Church and in secular society, it is not possible to beef up widespread awareness of the need for the change in lifestyles Pope Francis is calling for.


More from this section