CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 19 August 2017

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At least a political climate change

HONG KONG (SE): “This for us is something that we hoped would not have happened,” Peter Cardinal Turkson, the prefect of the newly-formed dicastery for Integral Human Development, said in response to an announcement by the president of the United States of America (US), Donald Trump, that he would withdraw his nation from the Paris Climate Agreement.
 
Speaking in Washington at Georgetown University, Cardinal Turkson pointed out that Pope Francis had pushed hard for a strong agreement in Paris and he believes that issues pertinent to international welfare “should be taken out of the political discussion and should not be politicised.”
 
Speaking at the same forum, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the former Vatican representative to the United Nations, described Trump’s plan as yet another piece of evidence of a nationalist trend in both Europe and the US.
 
In saying that he does not believe this is healthy for anyone, Archbishop Tomasi commented, “There are two outlooks. One thinks the solution to the problems of today comes by closing in on itself as a country. The other knows if we join forces, we try to solve the problems.”
 
While Cardinal Turkson and Archbishop Tomasi were measured in their comments, the president of the Vatican Academy of Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, was anything but.
 
While maybe not as strong a condemnation as one-time US presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, made in describing it as telling the world to drop dead, by calling it a slap in the face for humanity the Argentine bishop did put it in the disaster-for-everyone bucket.
 
While some anticipated there may have been some sharp words between Trump and Pope Francis during their face-to-face meeting on May 24, it seems their discussion only managed to merit the cordial tag by limiting conversation to topics on which the two mostly agree.
 
Although the topic of migration did arise, climate change only seems to have received passing mention, as Pope Francis gifted the president with a copy of Praise Be; On care for our common home and Trump promised to read it, but he did not say when!
 
Bishop Sorondo has his own take on the matter. He told La Repubblica, “I don’t believe, however, that the conversation was very detailed on climate. I know, however, that the president of the US spoke about this in the conversation he had with Pietro Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.”
 
The bishop seriously questioned Trump’s connection with reality, as having someone who refuses to recognise the need to take action on climate change in a decision-making role, would be like entrusting the development of cosmology and his beloved Academy of Science to some of his own predecessors in the Vatican who censured Galileo for arguing that the earth is round.
 
But the three clerics are not the only ones who are unhappy. Within Trump’s own country a host of corporate giants have taken out full page advertisements in The New York Times, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal saying that keeping faith with the Paris Agreement generates jobs, as clean technology is a field in which the US is well poised to be a world leader.
 
It appears there are a lot of unhappy people around at present and the bishops in the US are among them.
 
Bishop Oscar Cantú noted that 195 nations signed the Paris Agreement and a country like the US pivoting itself against pretty well the rest of the world in not in its own or anyone else’s interest.
 
In a letter sent to the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “Sadly, environmental issues can be politicised for partisan agendas and used in public discourse to serve different economic, social, political and ideological interests.
 
“By presenting the care for creation from an ethical and moral standpoint, the pope has invited all to rise above these unhelpful divisions. We have one common home and we must protect it.”
 
However, in our world today, no issue sits in isolation from other challenges.
 
While Trump may not care a lot about climate change, there are many issues that he does care about, such as fighting terrorism, containing North Korea and winning better trade deals for companies and workers at home.
 
He cannot achieve any of these things without significant cooperation from the international community, which may see him having to temper his across the board recalcitrance on climate.
 
India is one country that sweated much before putting pen to paper in Paris, as it has large coal reserves. But its initial reluctance also reflects its determination to follow through on its commitment and, while it may not be a strong as China’s, the size of its economy makes it an important ally to the US in economic terms.
 
With China putting its hand up to take on leadership in the struggle to reduce harmful emissions with the European Union, the US and the world will be in for a change in the political climate.

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