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China contributes to Vatican consultation on environment

VATICAN (SE): “The long term task of building a harmonious society and the understanding that to be truly and enduringly harmonious, the harmony must not only extend beyond the borders of China and include all peoples of the world, but above all, it must include harmony between humans and nature,” Hu Deping, the head of a delegation from China to a consultation prior to the Conference of Parties 22 on the environment held at the Casina Pio IV at the Vatican, said.

The Joint Consultation on Laudato Si (Praise Be: On care for our common home) and the Path to COP (Conference of Parties) 22 organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences on September 28 drew up recommendations for the up-coming meeting in Morocco on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In a statement, the meeting said that the Paris Climate Agreement (2015) 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.

A signatory to the statement, Father Sean McDonagh, said that the words of On care for our common home, the development goals and the Paris Climate Agreement reflect the need for one world with a common plan.

Hu said that flowing from the shared understanding of the Paris Climate Agreement is the understanding that everything is closely related and “today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis.”

He added that from the perspective of his own country of China, “This is the context in which we should receive and assess the teaching of the encyclical, Laudato Si, which Pope Francis underscored most forcefully days ago by describing our destruction of the environment as a sin that is turning our planet into a polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation and filth.”

He explained that these words ring true in China and that the country has a good understanding of what the pope is talking about, as not being something off in the future, but something that is here now, the effects of which are already descending so cruelly upon the poor and marginalised.

“As around the globe, in China it is becoming clear, as Pope Francis has preached in words and example, that the resolve to live differently should affect our various contributions to shaping the culture and society in which we live,” the delegate from the Chinese government continued.

He then stressed that China understands that the political, social, scientific, academic and business leaders must stop thinking of short term gains and work for the common good.

Hu, who is known as a reformer in China’s political life, pointed out that even though much has already been achieved, there is still a long way to go, as the contradiction between protection and the development of the local economy will persist.

He added that methods of protecting the environment are often not popular and consequently subject to great pressure and funding to put them into place is inadequate, while awareness and supervision are in need of much improvement.

“While the progress achieved by the peoples of the world and the Chinese people as measured by the Millennium Development Goals gave cause for celebration, above all, it has not only imposed on us all the imperative of setting new and more daunting goals, it also showed that as human beings, we had both the moral obligation and the moral fibre to build a radically better world for all,” Hu reflected.

He explained that these ideals are embraced by the China Dream, but noted that what he termed a disruptive change needs to take place in the attitude of the Chinese people towards protection of the environment to prevent the whole dream from imploding upon itself through inaction.

He added that inaction and the selfish systems that demand and extort profit at any price could destroy the values that social justice ensures for all, so all can participate in the sustainable wealth of the common wealth.

Hu revealed that China is willing to cooperate with faith-based organisations, as evidenced by his own presence at the Vatican consultation, and the spirit of collaboration back home in China with groups like the Buddhists and the Amity Foundation.

“It can be seen in the respect and proactive response to the wonderful provocation of Laudato Si,” he stressed.

In addressing the consultation, Hu called for a sharing of information, experiences and knowledge, stressing that cooperation, both locally and abroad, is the only way to move forward in preserving and protecting the environment.

In its statement, the consultation emphasises that 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.

Father McDonagh explained that in the words of On care for our common home, the development goals and the Paris Climate Agreement reflect the need spoken about by Hu for one world with a common plan.

The statement from the consultation stresses that the Paris Climate Agreement should be put into force this year and that all signatory countries must 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 its timely ratification and implementation,” it says.

It also calls for technical experts from all signatory countries to participate in the Low-Emission Solutions Conference at COP 22, which is being hosted by Morocco in Marrakesh for the purpose of disseminating best practices and ideas on how to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

It calls on governments to abandon deforestation policies and to restore degraded lands; protect biodiversity and ecosystems; and crucially, to empower indigenous populations who are often the stewards of the threatened lands.

It calls on high-income countries to honour their long-standing pledges to provide at least US$100 billion ($775 billion) per year by 2020 to the low-income countries to finance energy transformation, land restoration, and adaptation and resilience.

Most importantly, it calls for attention to education to promote knowledge among young people in the sciences and ethical values of integral human development and sustainable development.

As Hu concluded, “Pope Francis reminds us that science at its best can help us listen to the cries of the earth, our common home, and we know that our hearts help us listen to the cries of the poor, our sisters and brothers. Xie Xie nimen (thank you).”

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