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Tuesday, February 18, 2020
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 18 2015 (IPS) - Judging by his recent public pronouncements – including on reproductive health, biodiversity, the creation of a Palestinian state, the political legitimacy of Cuba and now climate change – Pope Francis may upstage more than 150 world leaders when he addresses the United Nations, come September.
“The Pope will most likely be the headline-grabber,” predicts one longtime U.N. watcher, “particularly if he continues to be as outspoken as he has been so far.”
As his mostly socio-political statements become increasingly hard-hitting, the Argentine-born Il Papa, the first Pope from the developing world, is drawing both ardent supporters and hostile critics.
Last January, during a trip to Asia, he dropped a bombshell when he said Catholics should practice responsible parenthood and stop “breeding like rabbits.”
In the United States, the Pope has been criticised by right-wing conservatives for playing a key behind-the-scenes role in the resumption of U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba, and incurred the wrath of the pro-Israeli lobby for recognising Palestine as a nation state.
In fact, most of his pronouncements are closely in line with the United Nations – and specifically its socio-economic agenda.
In his 184-page Encyclical released Thursday, the Pope says “Our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”
“Faced with the global deterioration of the environment, I want to address every person who inhabits this planet. In this Encyclical, I especially propose to enter into discussion with everyone regarding our common home.”
The Pope also complains how weak international political responses have been.
“The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance,” he said.
There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected, the Pope declared.
Speaking on the global environment last year, he said: “The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth.”
“Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,” he added.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has consistently warned against the devastating effects of climate change, praised Pope Francis for his papal encyclical which highlights that “climate change is one of the principal challenges facing humanity, and that it is a moral issue requiring respectful dialogue with all parts of society.”
He agreed with the encyclical’s findings that there is “a very solid scientific consensus” showing significant warming of the climate system and that most global warming in recent decades is “mainly a result of human activity”.
Ban urged governments to place the global common good above national interests and to adopt an ambitious, universal climate agreement in Paris this year.
Tim Gore, Oxfam International Climate Adviser, told IPS the Pope has set out how climate change is at its most basic a moral issue – it is a deep injustice that the pollution of the world’s richest people and countries drives harmful climate disruption in the poorest communities and countries.
“Anyone that is concerned about injustice should rightly be concerned about climate change, and in making his call, the Pope joins many other leaders of faith, civil society and trade unions. Climate change is all of our business,” he said.
Janet Redman, director of the Climate Policy Programme at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said: “Pope Francis is crystal clear — the current development model, based on the intensive use of coal, oil, and even natural gas, has to go. In its place, we need renewable sources of energy and new modes of production and consumption that rein in global warming.”
Taxing carbon, divesting from fossil fuels, and ending public corporate welfare for polluters can help end the stranglehold dirty energy companies have on our governments, economies and societies, she added.
In a statement released Thursday, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, currently chair of the Africa Progress Panel and Kofi Annan Foundation, said as Pope Francis reaffirms, climate change is an all-encompassing threat.
“It is a threat to our security, our health, and our sources of fresh water and food. Such conditions could displace tens of millions of people, dwarfing current migration and fuelling further conflicts,” Annan said.
“I applaud the Pope for his strong moral and ethical leadership. We need more of such inspired leadership. Will we see it at the climate summit in Paris?,” he added.
In the United States, the criticisms have come mostly from right-wing conservatives, who want the Pope to confine himself to religion, not politics.
Representative Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina and a strong supporter of Israel, said Pope Francis should avoid the Palestine debate altogether – the Vatican should focus on spiritual matters and stay out of politics.
Asked Tuesday, just ahead of the Pope’s statement on climate change, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency, said: “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”
Edited by Kitty Stapp
The writer can be contacted at email@example.com
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