A word in edgeways, timely and helpful
This Pope is a blessing for the Catholic Church and all of humanity. Pope Francis has already demonstrated his courage and strong authority in internal Church matters and on the subject of refugees. His speech to the European Parliament impressed everyone across party lines.
I am very pleased that Pope Francis is now also focusing on the important issue of protecting the climate and environment with the encyclical Laudato si'. The name Laudato si' after the Canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi says it all, just like the name of Francis, which the Pope chose for himself. I am absolutely delighted with the encyclical. It will provide a boost for all those across the world who care strongly about the preservation of creation.
Impetus for Paris
The Encyclical provides inspiration, particularly to the annual climate change conferences at which the major players have, for the most varied reasons, lacked ambition and the will to reach agreement over the past few years. The encyclical can provide an important impetus in this regard. I expect a more positive attitude from the predominantly Catholic countries in the run-up to this year’s UN Climate Conference to be held in Paris in December (COP 21). For example, 30% of US senators are Catholic and I hope the Republican senators will also be able to adopt a more positive attitude to climate protection in the future.
Within Europe, the role of strongly Catholic Poland so far has been particularly problematic, with the Polish government slowing down almost all climate protection initiatives. I hope this will now change, at least partially.
Unity of ecological and social problems
More generally, I am hoping for a boost to the ambitious environmental policy as a whole. Pope Francis mentions environmental pollution, problems of waste and the throw-away culture, climate change, scarcity of drinking water and loss of biodiversity as examples. All of these are issues and challenges in the combating of which the European Union is already setting a good example.
The Pope is clear in his denunciation of the increasing over-exploitation of the planet, pointing out that it is primarily the poorest people who suffer from the advancing climate change and environmental pollution. I share his view that ecological and social problems and commitment to the environment and for the poor should always be regarded as a single entity.
I would be delighted if it could be accepted as a conventional wisdom that climate change is extensively caused by human activity; this knowledge must be reflected in appropriate actions on the part of those persons who bear the political responsibility. This will enable us to arrive at a balance between ecological and economic interests that will benefit everyone.
Incidentally, the Pope supports the scientists who hold the view that the warming of the climate system is man-made: in other words, at least 95% of all those who are actively carrying out research in this area. I myself am a doctor, and when a patient’s health is being examined and 95% of the physicians agree on the diagnosis, this is normally not called into question; instead, you get on with the treatment.
Crucial role of the churches
Climate change should therefore be accepted as a fact; it affects all the inhabitants of the Earth. The Pope states this clearly. Climate change is “a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods.” Not least of all, it leads to more and more people fleeing “from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation” and not only from war and violence. I see this as a huge danger coming our way. This will inevitably lead to changes in everyone’s lives. It is now time to influence and shape these changes. Those taking this task in hand are here, reliant on support and assistance – especially from the churches.
If they express their view forcefully, the churches and religious communities are capable of taking a decisive role in shaping the future world order, with the very specific example of a future climate agreement that is so important for our children and our children’s children. I hope to see such a clear positioning of the churches continuing on issues affecting the future, as demonstrated by Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato si'. Such involvement has been – and still is –both helpful and necessary.
Member of the European Parliament
Translated from the original text in German