Negotiators of a global agreement on climate change must take effective action to protect creation, leading bishops from around the world said on Monday. “This agreement must put the common good ahead of national interests. It is essential too that the negotiations result in an enforceable agreement that protects our common home and all its inhabitants,” said the bishops’ Oct. 26 appeal. The bishops’ appeal addressed negotiators at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will take place in Paris in Nov. 30 — Dec. 11. The bishops said negotiators must secure an agreement that is “fair, legally binding and truly transformational,” Vatican Radio reports. “The building and maintenance of a sustainable common home requires courageous and imaginative political leadership,” the bishops continued, calling for legal frameworks which “clearly establish boundaries” and ensure protection for the ecosystem. Signers of the declaration include Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the United States bishops' conference, and Bishop David Crosby of Hamilton, president of the Canadian bishops' conference. Other signers were the heads of the regional bishops’ conferences of Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Oceania: Cardinal Gracias of Bombay; Archbishop Mbilingi of Lubango; Cardinal Erd? of Esztergom-Budapest; Cardinal Marx of Munich and Freising; Archbishop Ribat of Port Moresby; Cardinal Salazar Gómez of Bogota; and Cardinal Rai, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch. The bishops said scientific evidence indicates that accelerated climate change is due to “unrestrained human activity” and “excessive reliance on fossil fuels.” “The Pope and Catholic Bishops from five continents, sensitive to the damage caused, appeal for a drastic reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide and other toxic gases,” the bishops said. They called on the climate change conference to forge an international agreement to limit global temperature increases as suggested by the scientific community in order “to avoid catastrophic climatic impacts, especially on the poorest and most vulnerable communities.” “The need to work together in a common endeavor is imperative,” they said. The bishops advised that the global climate change agreement recognize “the need to live in harmony with nature” and the need to guarantee human rights for everyone, including indigenous peoples, women, youth and workers. The conference should “develop new models of development and lifestyles that are climate compatible, address inequality and bring people out of poverty.” “Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions, including emissions from military, aviation and shipping, and providing affordable, reliable and safe renewable energy access for all,” the bishops said. The bishops asked the conference to “set a goal for complete de-carbonization by mid-century” to protect communities most threatened by climate change, such as Pacific islanders and coastal communities. The agreement should also ensure access to water and land, while enabling the participation of the poorest and most vulnerable in the discussions. The bishops said their policy proposals draw on “the concrete experiences of people across the continents.” The bishops linked climate change to “social injustice and the social exclusion of the poorest.” The bishops cited Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, Laudato si', which said climate change is one of the principal challenges now facing humanity. The Pope stressed that the climate is a common good that is meant for everyone, with the natural environment being part of humanity’s patrimony. The Pope stressed the need to find a consensual solution that is universal in a solidarity that extends across generations. The bishops’ appeal to the climate change conference echoed these concerns. “We call for an integral ecological approach, we call for social justice to be placed center stage ‘so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’,” the bishops said. The bishops’ statement included a prayer that God will “teach us to care for this world our common home.” They asked that God would inspire government leaders gathered in Paris “to listen to and heed the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” and to “protect the beautiful earthly garden you have created for us.” The bishops wrote their appeal in collaboration with Caritas Internationalis and the network of Catholic development agencies, CIDSE. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace sponsored the effort.
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