The world’s Christian leaders have united to warn of the “catastrophic consequences” of climate change, saying now is a “critical moment” for the planet’s future.
Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, released the joint statement ahead of November’s Cop26 climate summit.
In their first-ever joint statement, the three clerics urged people to play their part in “choosing life” for the planet and called on leaders to make decisions that will allow a transition to “just and sustainable economies.”
They also warned of the urgency of environmental sustainability and the impact climate change has on poverty, urging global co-operation on the issue.
The statement said: “We call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.
“This is the first time that the three of us feel compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation,” it added.
“We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the Earth’s resources than the planet can endure.
“But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”
Christian leaders: Need to reverse direction on climate change
The world is “already witnessing the consequences of our refusal to protect and preserve [the planet]. Now, in this moment, we have an opportunity to repent, to turn around in resolve, to head in the opposite direction. We must pursue generosity and fairness in the ways that we live, work and use money, instead of selfish gain.”
The leaders also called for everyone to take individual responsibility for combating climate change and make personal changes to help the crisis.
The statement said: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.
“Each of us, individually, must take responsibility for the ways we use our resources. This path requires an ever-closer collaboration among all churches in their commitment to care for creation.
“Together as communities, churches, cities, and nations, we must change route and discover new ways of working together to break down the traditional barriers between peoples, to stop competing for resources and start collaborating.”
Appeal before the climate summit
COP26, which the pope is hoping to attend, is taking place in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.
The talks are aiming to spur more ambitious commitments by countries to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and keep the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius during this century, in line with a 2015 Paris accord.
But many countries, especially the poorer ones that are lagging behind in vaccinations against Covid-19, have recently expressed concerns about their ability to participate due to the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the CAN global network of more than 1,500 climate NGOs called on Britain to postpone the summit.
Typically delegates from more than 190 countries attend the annual talks.
But an increase in Covid cases, unequal global vaccine rollout, and stringent quarantine requirements for more than 60 ‘red list’ nations or territories hoping to attend the UN talks mean that ‘a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference is impossible,’ CAN said in a statement.