For the first time, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion have jointly warned of the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on poverty, and the importance of global cooperation.
In a joint statement, the Christian leaders have called on people to pray for world leaders ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in November in Glasgow, which is the most important meeting of its kind since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015.
Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Justin Welby urge everyone to play their part in safeguarding the future of the planet: “We must decide what kind of world we want to leave to future generations. We must choose to live differently; we must choose life.”
The extreme weather and natural disasters of recent months have shown that climate change is not only a future challenge, but “an immediate and urgent matter of survival,” the leaders say in the statement and strike a clear warning: “Today, we are paying the price…Tomorrow could be worse.”
The statement also calls on individuals to make meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the planet, working together and taking responsibility for how we use our resources; and calls on those with far-reaching responsibilities to choose people-centred profits and lead the transition to just and sustainable economies.
The church leaders say that the concept of stewardship – of individual and collective responsibility for our planet – presents a vital starting point for social, economic and environmental sustainability and add that humanity is already witnessing the consequences of its refusal to protect and preserve nature.
“We have maximised our own interest at the expense of future generations. By concentrating on our wealth, we find that long-term assets, including the bounty of nature, are depleted for short-term advantage.”
The three Christian leaders spoke against inequality and highlighted the “profound injustice” that it is the world’s poorest who are suffering the worst impacts of our disregard for the environment:
“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. 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.”
The joint declaration underlines the urgent need for global cooperation to tackle a series of crises, including health, environmental, food, economic and social, that are deeply interconnected.
According to Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Justin Welby, the international community is in a unique position to seize the current opportunity to change track and transform the way we live. In the declaration, they conclude that: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”