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Nuncio: Climate Summit Should Recognize Moral Dimension
Carol Zimmermann
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2009
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WASHINGTON (CNS)—The U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, should not just be about "targets, indicators, figures and planning" said Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's nuncio to the United Nations and leader of the Vatican's five-person delegation to the conference.

Instead, he said the Dec. 7-18 summit should emphasize "human beings, local populations, poor and vulnerable countries."

The archbishop, scheduled to arrive at the conference Dec. 14, responded that day by e-mail to questions submitted by Catholic News Service.

The archbishop said he was confident the summit would "reach a political consensus to produce within a reasonable amount of time a binding agreement on emission-cuts targets and financing for adaptation and mitigation, especially in poor and more vulnerable countries."

But he stressed that he would be content if the summit did not focus solely on technicalities such as "reducing greenhouse gas emissions a percentage point, allocating investments and establishing who will pay what."

"Rather, it should focus more on the operational and moral dimension at the grass-roots level, involving not only technology and law but also the lifestyles of everybody—the patterns of production and consumption," he said.

More than 100 world leaders were expected at the two-week summit and nearly three dozen representatives of Catholic aid and development organizations were on hand for the two-week summit. They were urging world leaders to take prompt action to ease the impact of global climate change on poor and vulnerable people adversely affected by drought, flooding and rising sea levels brought on in part by the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from more developed countries.

Members of the Vatican delegation included climate expert Marcus Wandinger, who has published numerous articles on environmental issues, and Paolo Conversi, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State, who teaches human ecology at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University.

Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization for more than 150 Catholic relief and development organizations, also was represented at the summit. Caritas and the Catholic International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity have called for a "fair, effective and binding agreement in Copenhagen" based on commitments by developed countries to lessen greenhouse gas emissions and help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Archbishop Migliore said the church has much to say about the environment and Pope Benedict XVI has developed this theme in recent years.

He said the pope "does not speak of the environment but of creation" and he also speaks of the urgency to safeguard it instead of defending it.

The use of the word creation "places the question in the correct perspective," the archbishop said, "reminding everyone that the environment is a gift of God. Therefore it is not a matter of defending it from an enemy who is usually identified as man, but of safeguarding it because God himself desired to entrust creation to mankind."

He said the pope has spoken of the "moral dimension of human activity in dealing with creation and places the emphasis on the mutual rapport between safeguarding creation and encouraging development. It is development that will help us adapt to climatic phenomena," the archbishop said.

The day before the summit began, Pope Benedict XVI said protection of the environment requires more sober lifestyles and a rediscovery of the "moral dimension" of development.
He also said he hoped the conference would identify policies that "respect creation and promote a cooperative development founded on the dignity of the human person and oriented toward the common good."

When asked how countries might respond to the pope's suggestion to adopt sober and responsible lifestyles, the archbishop said "sobriety does not equate with scarcity and want." Instead, it means that "we use our resources with responsibility and solidarity" and place a renewed focus on the "search for lasting and equitable solutions to the degradation of our ecosystem."

The archbishop said the focus on potential manipulation of global warming data demonstrates how "the relationship between truth and politics is as old as humanity."

"These days we are witness to a disquieting gap between the two orders of knowing and acting and perhaps because of this it is more difficult to reach an agreement in a reasonable amount of time and make common and effective decisions to resolve the problems of humanity," he said.

In response to those who are emphasizing that climate change could be alleviated by a decreased population, the archbishop said: "the real issue is the growth in the number of consumers and their consumption levels rather than the growth in the number of people."
He also pointed out that "most of the world's high consumers are in the Western world where birth rates are extremely low."

"Greenhouse gas emissions are caused predominantly by a minority of the world's population that has the highest levels of consumption," he added, stressing that in order to find solutions "we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from the real causes which in this case are, among others, patterns of production and overconsumption."

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