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Pushing for strong deal at climate summit

KATOWICE (CNS): “The Church is exerting pressure and showing really significant commitment. We must hope countries match this,” said Rebecca Elliott, communications director of Global Catholic Climate Movement, a coalition of more than 650 Catholic organisations, as Catholic representatives worked to keep negotiations on track for a comprehensive deal to address global warming as the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) entered its second and final week in Katowice, Poland.
The effort was complicated by the actions of delegates from the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who objected to a note by or COP24 “welcoming” an October report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report warned that greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels would need to be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 for global warming kept to a maximum of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit under the 2015 Paris climate accord or risk worsening drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty.
After hours of negotiations on December 8 and with no consensus reached, the note was dropped under UN protocol.
Still, the Church continued to press for sustained action on climate change.
“Besides acting as a moral voice and providing a robust faith-based response, Catholic organisations are relating stories about the experiences of people from Latin America, Africa, India and the Pacific islands who are gravely affected by climate change,” Elliot said.
Her observation came as climate campaigners met in Katowice on December 10 for a conference marking Human Rights Day, organised by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences and France’s National Centre for Scientific Research.
It was also 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights by the UN General Assembly.
The appearance of Patricia Espinoza, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the Church-sponsored event served to recognise “the importance of the Catholic voice” at the Katowice meeting, Elliott said.
A senior policy adviser with US-based Catholic Relief Services also recognised the work of Catholic campaigners at the conference to coordinate efforts.
“With so many technical and procedural matters to contend with, it’s been essential to bring everyone together and avoid duplication as we push for a deal,” said Lori Pearson, who Catholic Relief Services on food security and climate change issues.
“While interesting, wonderful ideas are being generated at national and global level, they won’t be implemented without local action,” she said, adding, “This is where Catholic organisations likes ours are playing a key role: in translating initiatives into real benefits for people on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Dan Misleh, director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said in a December 10 statement that nearly 800 Catholic institutions in the US had committed “to finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint, raise awareness and advocate to their legislators that we must all do our part to avoid a climate catastrophe.”
Reacting to the stance US government under the president, Donald Trump—which pulled out of its Paris Accord commitments—at COP24, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, episcopal liaison to Catholic Climate Covenant, said that climate change was a “profoundly moral crisis” demanding “international engagement.”
The bishop added that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a party to the covenant, has said it believes Trump’s act of withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement was “inconsistent with the responsibilities of a nation as wealthy and compassionate as ours.”
In addition to the Human Rights Day event, Catholic organisations met the same day to “explore personal stories from the front lines of the climate crisis” and ensure government actions upheld human rights, a statement released after the meeting said.
Participating organisations included Caritas Internationalis, Franciscans International and Brussels-based CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies in Europe and North America.
Meanwhile, a climate pilgrimage group, which included typhoon survivors from the Philippines, reached Katowice on December 8 after walking 1,528 kilometres from the Vatican. Participants handed prayer ribbons to the UN’s Espinosa on December 10.

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