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Vatican turns up heat on global warming

Benedict XVI has shone spotlight on climate change

09 June, 13:36
Vatican turns up heat on global warming

(ANSA) - Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI may not resemble the stereotypical image of an environmental activist, but in his quiet way the pontiff is playing a big part to turn up the heat on global warming.

To the chagrin of Christian greenhouse sceptics, the German pope has sided squarely with the environmental lobby by urging Catholics to accept the truth of climate change and take collective responsibility to reduce carbon emissions.

And, in this regard at least, he has perhaps outdone his much-loved and recently beatified predecessor John Paul II, who rarely singled out the issue for specific attention.

Benedict, on the other hand, has made a point of telling Christians it is their duty to God to take action to avert the catastrophe climate change threatens, earning himself the tag of being the ''green pope'' in the process.

The examples of this message featuring in his writing and audiences are numerous.

The keynote of his first address at the World Youth Day celebrations in Australia in 2008 was an appeal to fight climate change by rejected the consumerism that is feeding it.

''There are scars which mark the surface of our earth, erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources, in order to fuel an insatiable consumption,'' he said.

In his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate he wrote that humankind had a ''covenant'' with the environment and the responsibility for upholding it ''is a global one, for it is concerned not just with energy but with the whole of creation, which must not be bequeathed to future generations depleted of its resources''.

The year after, when the United Nations COP 15 Conference in Copenhagen failed to produce a strong, legally binding international treaty to combat climate change, Benedict berated a group of ambassadors to the Holy See.

''To cultivate peace, you must protect creation,'' he said.

Furthermore, the Church as a whole has raised the issue's profile under his leadership.

In May, for example, a Vatican-appointed panel of independent scientists echoed warnings that the planet is heating up, glaciers are melting and urgent action is needed. ''Failure to mitigate climate change will violate our duty to the vulnerable of the Earth, including those dependent on the water supplies of mountain glaciers, and those facing rising sea levels and stronger storm surges,'' read a report of the panel commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. ''Our duty includes the duty to help vulnerable communities adapt to changes that cannot be mitigated. ''All nations must ensure that their actions are strong enough and prompt enough to address the increasªing impacts and growing risk of climate change and to avoid catastrophic irreversible consequences''. Under Benedict, the Vatican has also taken practical steps to do its bit for the environment.

The Vatican has joined a reforestation project in Hungary as a part of a drive to eliminate its ecological footprint, although critics have questioned the scheme's effectiveness in offsetting carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2008 it installed photovoltaic cells on the roof of its main auditorium to help meet its energy needs without producing greenhouse emission and subsequently installed a solar cooling unit for its main cafeteria.

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