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Catholic leaders rally behind Pope for socially just climate breakthrough

Catholic leaders

The Vatican. Creative Commons: 2014

Catholic leaders from around the world have called for a transformative breakthrough at this December’s UN climate conference in Paris, saying any deal must put “the common good ahead of national interests”.

Based on Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si” encyclical and signed in the Vatican today, the 10-point proposal calls for legally binding limits to keep average global warming to 1.5DegC, and “an end to the fossil fuel era”.

Catholic leaders want a goal of complete decarbonisation by the middle of the century – 50 years sooner than current G7 and EU targets – as coal and other dirty fuels are among the chief causes of climate change, which is hitting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable first and hardest.

While some companies and countries with vested interests continue to push “nonsense” and “obscene” arguments that coal is a solution to poverty, the reality is dirty development pathways represent a double hit for the world’s poor.

The appeal states:

Reliable scientific evidence suggests that accelerated climate change is the result of unrestrained human activity, working to a particular model of progress and development and that excessive reliance on fossil fuels is primarily responsible.

Fossil fuels lock them into a volatile and expensive fuel market that damages their health and the local environment, while contributing worsening climate impacts that they are unable to prepare for, or recover from.

Climate change affects everyone, but it is hitting poorer communities – those with the least responsibility for greenhouse emissions – first and the hardest.

Economically, it will be a disaster for rich and poor alike, but the poor are least equipped to manage.

Increasing fossil fuel consumption, such as coal, is fundamentally incompatible with protecting the rights and interests of poor communities in developing countries – especially when there is a clean, sustainable, and economically prudent development path available.

The only way to ensure a sustainable and socially just future for all is to make the clean energy transition as fast as possible, and for rich countries to help poor ones leapfrog dirty, obsolete forms of development.

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