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Threatened islands appeal to pope

VATICAN (SE): Some island state leaders from the Pacific Ocean area took time out from the 23rd Conference of Parties on the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP23) being held in Bonn, Germany, on November 13, to pay a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The president of the tiny phosphate island of Nauru, Baron Waqa, told the pope, “We are on the frontline of climate change. The devastating impact of cyclones has caused enormous losses for our fragile economies and matters have not ended there.”
La Croix reported that he was speaking on behalf of all Pacific leaders, including those from French Polynesia.
The Nauruan president emphasised the dangers of global warming and rising sea levels, as well as the increasing degree of water salinity caused by rising water tables in the region, which has a great impact on food production and security.
Highlighting the moral authority of Pope Francis on ecological issues, the Pacific leaders noted the significance of the encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’), which they said has re-dynamised the discussion on recognition, above all, of the most vulnerable in the face of climate change.
“The Pacific bears the burden of this existential threat even though it is not our fault,” Waqa commented.
He also called on the Bonn meeting to adopt a clause in which the international community accepts responsibility for the damage caused by natural catastrophes in the region.
Waqa said our world must be recognised as an earth without borders, because its atmosphere is so fragile.
In his message to the 197 leaders gathered at the meeting venue in Bonn, Pope Francis said, “It is my hope that the efforts of COP23 and those yet to come, will always keep in mind the greater picture that earth is without borders, with its highly rarified atmosphere, as it was described by one of the astronauts currently orbiting in the International Space Station, with whom I recently had a fascinating conversation.”
He continued, “You have come here from countries far distant from Rome, yet that vision of an earth without borders dissolves all geographic distances.
“It reminds us of the need for a global outlook, international cooperation and solidarity, and a shared strategy, which can prevent us from remaining indifferent in the face of grave problems such as the deterioration of the environment and of the health of the oceans. This is itself linked to the human and social deterioration experienced by humanity today.”
Despite any progress that may have been made, in the wake of a series of cataclysmic weather events, developing countries are accusing the rich that are the top emitters of greenhouse gases of failing to meet their promises made at Paris in 2015.

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