Catholic bishops to Lima delegates: end fossil fuels, tend to vulnerable in climate deal

by Brian Roewe

NCR environment correspondent

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Citing an order “to treat respectfully Creation,” a group of Catholic bishops have called for an end of the use of fossil fuels, and for negotiators at the United Nations climate talks in Lima, Peru, to lay the foundation for an internationally binding agreement next year in Paris.

“Humankind on the Planet Earth is ordained to live in equity, justice and dignity, peace and harmony in the midst of the order of Creation. Humankind is ordered to treat respectfully Creation, which has a value in itself,” the bishops said.

The statement came Wednesday from nine bishops from four continents and five countries, primarily from the Global South, with five from host country Peru. That included Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón of Ayacucho, president of the Peruvian bishops’ conference.

Wednesday marked the second day of high-level negotiations at the U.N. climate talks, formally known as the 20th Conference of the Parties, or COP 20. The summit, which began Dec. 1 is set to conclude Friday, though the conferences, held annually since 1992, in the past have extended into additional days.

Negotiators in Lima, representing 195 countries, are expected to work on drafting an outline text of an agreement in which nations would pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in addition to offering financial aid to the Green Climate Fund, formed to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigations efforts related to climate change. An agreement would then be signed next year in Paris, site of the 21st Conference of the Parties.

“We Bishops call on all Catholics and people of good will to engage on the road to Paris as a starting point for a new life in harmony with Creation respecting planetary boundaries,” they said, noting their message “is rooted in the experience and suffering” of poor and vulnerable communities.

The nine bishops called for delegates in Paris “to adopt a fair and legally binding global agreement based on the universal human rights applicable to all.” They said such an agreement should keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels -- an even stiffer bar than the 2-degree target climate scientists have pointed to in order to avoid to worst effects of climate change.

The bishops also called for new models of development and lifestyles, ones that are “both climate compatible and bring people out of poverty.”

“Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100% renewables with sustainable energy access for all,” the bishops said.

Earlier in their statement, the bishops attributed global warming to “the dominant global economic system, which is a human creation.” They argued the model has placed market and profit above the human being and the common good, and said there is a need “for a new financial and economic order.”

Reinforcing the disproportionate impact of climate change on the poor, the prelates urged U.N. delegates to adopt adaptation and mitigation efforts that meet the needs of the most vulnerable communities.

“We Bishops want to accompany the political process and seek dialogue to bring the voices of the poor to the table of decision-makers,” they said.

The bishops acknowledged that more and more nations, religious groups and individuals have recognized the natural and ethical concerns of climate change.

“We wish to see therefore a deepening of the discourse at the COP20 in Lima, to ensure concrete decisions are taken at COP21 to overcome the climate challenge and to set us on new sustainable pathways,” they said.

In addition to García-Calderón, bishops signing the letter included Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno, of Huancayo, Peru; Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka, of Umtata, South Africa; Emeritus Auxiliar Bishop Theotonius Gomes,of Dhaka, Bangladesh; Bishop Marc Stenger, of Troyes, France; Archbishop Zanoni Demettino Castro, of Feira de Santana, Brazil; Bishop Richard Alarcon Urrutia, of Tarma, Peru; Bishop Jaime Rodriguez, of Huanuco, Peru; and Bishop Alfredo Vizcarra, of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Francisco Javier de Jaen, Peru.

Read the full statement here (link fixed).

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]

Editor's note: Want more stories from Eco Catholic? We can send you an email alert once a week with the latest. Just go to this page and follow directions: Email alert sign-up. And check back at Eco Catholic for continuing coverage of the Lima climate talks. 

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