December 2, 2013

WARSAW, POLAND – Representatives of Catholic organizations voiced disappointment at the conclusion of a United Nations summit on climate change and urged Church leaders to do more to mobilize the public to act on behalf of the environment.

Their disappointment stems from slowed progress toward an aggressive tack to reduce carbon emissions worldwide during the Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which ended Nov. 23 in Warsaw.

"Given the urgency of the problems, we always have high expectations, but this summit's outcome is far from what's needed," said Emilie Johann, policy and advocacy officer with CIDSE, a Brussels-based alliance of 17 Catholic aid groups.


"Real change will clearly also have to come from people on the ground. So we need churches worldwide to help explain what help climate change involves and empower people to act," she said.

The summit, attended by delegates from 195 nations, failed to foster a "global consensus" or resolve a "disconnection" between UN-backed initiatives and national policies, Johann told Catholic News Service.

Meanwhile, Chris Bain, director of Britain's Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, said he was disappointed the summit failed to achieve steps to limit rising temperatures to an average of two degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

"There was no sense of any real commitment in this area by either developed or developing countries," he said.

The Warsaw conference was the 19th intergovernmental gathering to review progress since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gases.

Bain said the Catholic Church should be speaking with a "more prophetic voice" on climate issues.

Bain said he is counting on an expected 2014 encyclical from the pope to "put down markers on where the Church stands on protecting creation for future generations."


"We shouldn't be under illusions. The rich economies will have to make sacrifices and this isn't an easy message for secular politicians," he said.

"But these are moral and ethical issues about the kind of world we want, not only for the rich but also for the poor. The Church can give an important message here to societies which take rampant consumerism for granted," he said.