Environmental leaders, activists and advocates gathered at the Vatican City on Thursday, July 5, 2018 with Pope Francis to kick off a two-day Vatican-organised conference with a sense of urgency and unity. Together they hope to emerge with a momentum for greater action and a shared vision for protecting our planet.
Inspired by the third anniversary of the Pope’s seminal encyclical on the issue – titled Laudato si’ – political and religious leaders, scientists, economists and heads of civil society organisations came together to discuss how to awaken people to the gravity of the situation and inspire a “massive movement” of cooperative action and moral responsibility to our planet.
UN Environment’s Executive Director, Erik Solheim, will address the convocation on the second day of the meetings titled: “Acting Together to Save our Common Home”.
“The challenges we face around climate change, biodiversity loss and deforestation are daunting. The science – as so ably outlined in Laudato si’ – is unambiguous,” Erik Solheim wrote in his remarks for the conference. “We are reaching, surpassing and ignoring global environmental tipping points that are causing enormous problems for humanity and hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.”
Having drawn inspiration from the call for unity and action in the encyclical, UN Environment introduced their Interfaith Rainforest Initiative at the conference. The new international alliance is a platform for religious leaders and faith-based communities to work hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples, governments, civil society and businesses on actions that protect rainforests.
“This is just one example of how new kinds of collaboration across sectors can bring forth real solutions,” said Solheim.
In Laudato si’, Pope Francis, who has emerged as an avid advocate for the environment since his appointment, condemned the collective negligence on behalf of the planet and called for strong and immediate action on climate change.
“Young people demand change,” the encyclical letter reads.” They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”
Since taking up his post, the Pope has repeatedly called to bridge the divide between communities in protection of our commonly inherited earth, lobbying with political leaders and private sector chiefs alike to urge the need for acting together to save the earth.
The international conference, organised by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, highlighted the personal accounts of victims of environmental crises, reflecting on how to understand and respond to these crises and envisage the journey ahead for a sustainable world.
The event will set the stage for a series of important dialogues on the subject to follow,
including the Global Climate Action Summit in California, the annual International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting in Bali, and the COP 24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland.