Catholic Relief Services, the official charitable arm of the U.S. bishops, is expressing strong opposition to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.
“With the planet warming at an alarming rate and the poorest of the poor left to withstand the consequences, there will undoubtedly be more global instability, forced migration and conflict,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ executive vice president of Mission, Mobilization and Advocacy.
“It is not too late to take meaningful steps to care for creation and mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change, which is why we hope our government reconsiders this misguided decision.”
On Monday, the United States gave its formal notification of its intent to exit the Paris Climate Accord.
The Dec. 2015 agreement, which 188 nations signed following the United Nations Climate Change Conference, came into force during Nov. 2016.
The coalition of nations agreed to attempt to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.
Pope Francis hailed the agreement as “historic” and said that it would require “a concerted and generous commitment” from members of the international community. Since then, officials of the Holy See have reiterated its view that climate change is a moral issue and has an effect on human dignity.
At a UN climate change summit in Poland in Dec. 2018, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin urged the implementation of the Paris Climate Accord by “easing the impact of climate change through responsible mitigation and adaptation measures.”
“The scientific data at our disposal clearly show the urgent need for swift action, within a context of ethics, equity and social justice,” Parolin said.
Some 60 dioceses in the United States have so far pledged to continue to support action to mitigate climate change, along with close to 200 religious communities, more than 100 parishes, and other Catholic groups in an agreement affirming the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.
President Donald Trump had announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the agreement after he took office in 2017, citing economic downsides to the plan’s implementation.
The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China. Trump has previously said that the agreement put “no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters” like China.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a formal notification to the United Nations of its intention to withdraw on the first possible day to do so, the BBC reports. UN rules meant it was not possible for the U.S. to start the withdrawal process until Nov. 4, 2019.
The withdrawal will take effect on Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the 2020 presidential election.
According to the BBC, the Paris Climate Accord included efforts to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100, as well as a review of each country's contribution to cutting emissions every five years.
Pompeo said the U.S. would instead follow “a realistic and pragmatic model,” using “all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently.”
CRS said in a Nov. 4 statement that the Paris Climate Accord signifies international recognition that climate change is especially threatening “the most vulnerable who contributed the least to it,” and asserted that the agreement would “secure the cooperation, action and resources needed to address the problem.”
The agency also quoted Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si on the environment: “Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.”
CRS noted that in Bangladesh, rising sea levels are encroaching on water tables and coastal homes. In Central America, CRS said in 2017, coffee farmers are losing their crops due to more frequent drought and because warmer temperatures help pests thrive.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the years 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 are the four warmest years in recorded history, with 2019 projected to be in the top three.
The next UN climate summit will begin in Madrid in December.