Countries have been meeting annually for the United Nations climate-change conferences since 1992. However, despite thirty years of deliberations greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase and the vast majority of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels. Scientists advise that the world must now act quickly to phase out coal, oil, and gas, halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050 at the latest.
In Laudato Deum, Pope Francis gave attention to the history of international progress and failures in the lead-up to this year's climate conference COP 28 (30th Nov – 12th Dec.) The Pope timed the release of his new Apostolic Exhortation to call for drastic acceleration in the global energy transition backed by the concrete responsibility of countries that produce the most emissions. Pope Francis reminds us of the grave injustice that poor nations who contribute the least to climate change are paying a heavy price. Remembering too countries in the global south face crushing debt made worse by the pandemic and are least financially able to adapt to the consequences of climate change. Climate change is often referred to as a threat multiplier.
There is still room for hope towards action-orientated agreements with recognition for the first time at a meeting of the United Nations in September this year, that fossil fuels are the root cause of climate change and must be phased out. Keeping in mind solutions to a safer climate are available and every fraction of a degree limit of global temperature makes a difference.
In the lead-up to COP28, St Columbans Mission Society signed the faith leaders Loss and Damage: The Moral Case for Action statement urging the agreement made by world leaders at COP27 be set in motion to deliver money to the people who need it the most. “As faith leaders, we are inherently concerned with the well-being of people, with the pursuit of justice, and the application of moral principles to everyday decision making.” Further, through participation with the Holy See and various global networks, St Columbans Mission Society adds voice for ambitious commitments and the accountability of nations across a range of measures in their COP28 statement.
Each year international climate conferences are attended by governments but also attract concerned leaders from various sectors and groups. Pope Francis was set to be the first pontiff to attend a climate conference having been invited to deliver a speech at the Pavilion of Faith as well as take part in private bilateral meetings. The Pavilion of Faith aims to inspire action to curb climate change through a programme of events. Vatican news has since reported Pope Francis has cancelled his plans to attend COP28 based on medical advice. A delegation from the Holy See will be attending on the Pope’s behalf.
For many decades, the Church has been a voice for change. On January 1st 1990, Pope St John Paul II affirmed there is a “profound sense the Earth is suffering,” Noting his message for the World Day of Peace was named, “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of creation.” Following on from this, in 2001 Pope St John Paul II gave clear support for an ecological vocation, urging that humanity “protect the fundamental good of life in all its manifestations” and an environment for future generations “more in conformity with the Creator's plan.” The call for an ecological vocation has been picked up during the papacy of Pope Francis. In his Angelus on November 12th, Pope Francis paid tribute to the two year anniversary of the Vatican’s Laudato Si Goals and Action Platform and thanked everyone who is taking part. Pope Francis also urged prayers for COP28.
Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM
Peace, Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon
Joelle Gergis, Humanity’s Moment: A Climate Scientists Case for Hope, 2022
 Joelle Gergis 2022
 Ms Tzeporah Berman Founder of the Fossil Fuel Treaty Laudato Si Movement launch event of Laudate Deum October 2023
 Pope John Paul 11, General Audience 17th Jan 2001.