Five reasons why Catholics should care about COP26

At the end of this month, the 26th iteration of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties or COP26 will commence in Glasgow, Scotland. The conference, which lasts two weeks, starts on October 31 and ends on November 12.

Brian Roewe of the National Catholic Reporter recently wrote an excellent article entitled “5 reasons why Catholics should care about the COP26 climate summit” which I have based this column on. I encourage you to read the original article.

Reason #1: Pope Francis cares (as do many faith leaders)

Brian writes that the Vatican has been preparing for COP26 for over two years. Most recently, on Oct 4, the feast of St Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis gathered with other religious leaders to urge the participants of COP26 “to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship.”

Reason #2: Paris Agreement wasn’t the end, but a beginning

Back in 2015, at COP21 in Paris, the Paris accord was adopted by most countries of the world, each committing to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Brian writes, “But the Paris Agreement only put the overall goals on paper; it did not include specific measures of how to get there.” At Paris, each country agreed to Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs — actions to reduce emissions — and to update them every five years. It’s time for an update; actually a year late due to COP26 being rescheduled because of COVID-19.

Reason #3: Catholic social teaching is on the table, especially for the poor

Brian asks us to “Name a principle of Catholic social teaching — from the dignity of every person, to solidarity and workers’ rights — and you will find it relates to the discussions at COP26, said Sr. Veronica Brand, who represents the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary at the U.N.” As many others have said, the least amongst us, which incidentally have contributed the least to climate change, will be most affected by climate change. And we, of course, are called to care for the least amongst us, to care for all of creation.

Reason #4: The climate is not waiting for governments to agree

The earth is warming and people are suffering, whether our leaders lead or not. You just have to look at this summer’s heat dome in the Pacific Northwest, the flooding in Europe, the wildfires in western United States, and many, many other examples of extreme weather just this year. We can act now and prevent the worst or wait until the toll, both in suffering and economic costs, is much higher. 

Reason #5: The pandemic connection

Brian writes that “Although COVID-19 delayed the climate conference, many see the forced pause as an opportunity, especially for accelerating the global transition to clean energy necessary to achieve the 1.5 C target.”

The world needs to boost the economies post-COVID. Let’s not squander the opportunity. 

As quoted in the closing of the article, Neil Thorns, director of advocacy for CAFOD, the official development agency of the Catholic Church of England and Wales said this: “Pope Francis says to us you don’t come back the same, you either come back better or worse. And we want to make sure we come back better. And that means greener, it means more sustainable and it means protecting the people and the planet going forward.”

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 
Paul Litwin

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