Pope Francis’ full speech read at COP28 in Dubai
Mr Secretary General of the United Nations,
Illustrious Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Unfortunately, I cannot be present among you as I would have liked, but I am with you because the time is serious. I am with you because, today more than ever, everyone’s future depends on the present we choose. I am with you because the devastation of creation is an offense to God, a sin not only personal but also structural which affects human beings, especially the weakest, a serious danger which weighs on everyone and risks to trigger a conflict between generations. I am with you because climate change is “a global social problem that is intimately linked to the dignity of human life” (Exhortation ap. Laudate Deum, not. 3). I am with you in asking the question that we are called to answer now: are we working for a culture of life or of death? I ask you urgently: let’s choose life, let’s choose the future! Let us listen to the groaning of the earth, let us pay attention to the cry of the poor, let us listen to the hopes of young people and the dreams of children! We have a great responsibility: to ensure that their future is not denied.
It is proven that current climate changes are the result of global warming, caused mainly by the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, itself caused by human activity which has become unsustainable for the ecosystem. over the last decades. The desire to produce and possess turned into an obsession and led to limitless greed which made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation. The climate gone crazy sounds like an alarm to stop this delirium of omnipotence. Let us once again recognize with humility and courage our limit as the only way to live in fullness.
What stands in the way of this path? The divisions that exist between us. But a fully connected world, like today’s, cannot be disconnected from those who govern it, with international negotiations that “cannot move forward meaningfully due to the position of countries putting their national interests above the general common good” (Lett. enc. Laudato sì’, not. 169). We are witnessing rigid, even inflexible, positions that tend to protect the income of individuals and those of their businesses, sometimes justifying themselves on the basis of what others have done in the past, with periodic referrals of responsibility. But the duty to which we are called today does not concern the past, but the future; a future which, whether we like it or not, will be for everyone or it will not be.
Particularly striking are the attempts to place the blame on the many poor people and on the number of births. These are taboos that absolutely must be put an end to. It is not the fault of the poor since almost the poorest half of the world is responsible for barely 10% of polluting emissions, while the gap between the few rich and the many poor has never been been so abysmal. The latter are in fact the victims of what is happening: let us think of the indigenous populations, of deforestation, of the drama of hunger, of water and food insecurity, of induced migratory flows. Births are not a problem, but a resource: they are not against life, but for life, while certain ideological and utilitarian models, imposed with velvet gloves on families and populations, represent real colonizations. We must not penalize the development of many countries, already burdened with heavy economic debts, but consider the impact of a few nations, responsible for a worrying ecological debt towards so many others (cf. ibid., nn. 51-52). Appropriate means should be found to eliminate the financial debts that weigh on various peoples, also in light of the ecological debt owed to them.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to address you, on behalf of the common home we live in, as brothers and sisters, to ask ourselves the following question: what is the way out? The one you are taking these days: the path of being together, multilateralism. Indeed, “the world is becoming so multipolar, and at the same time so complex, that a different framework for effective cooperation is necessary. It is not enough to think about the balance of power (…). It is a question of establishing global and effective rules” (Laudate Deum, not. 42). It is worrying, in this sense, that global warming is accompanied by a general cooling of multilateralism, a growing mistrust of the international community, a loss of the “common awareness of to be (…) a family of nations” (S. John Paul II, Speech at the 50th General Assembly of the United Nations, New York, October 5, 1995, 14). It is essential to restore trust, the foundation of multilateralism.
This applies both to the protection of creation and to peace: these are the most pressing issues and they are linked. How much energy is humanity wasting in so many ongoing wars, such as in Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and many other parts of the world: conflicts that will not solve the problems but will increase them? ! How many resources are wasted on armaments, which destroy lives and ruin the common home! I renew a proposal: “With the financial resources devoted to weapons as well as other military expenditures, let us create a Global Fund, with a view to eradicating hunger once and for all” (Lett. enc. Fratelli tutti, not. 262; cf. Saint Paul VI, Lett. Inc. Populorum Progressio, not. 51) and implement activities that promote sustainable development in the poorest countries, by combating climate change.
It is up to this generation to listen to the people, young people and children to lay the foundations of a new multilateralism. Why not start with the common house? Climate change highlights the need toa political change. Let’s get out of the rut of particularism and nationalism, these are models of the past. Let us adopt an alternative and common vision: it will allow an ecological conversion, because “there is no lasting change without cultural change” (Laudate Deum, not. 70). In this I assure the commitment and support of the Catholic Church, active in particular in education and awareness of common participation, as well as in the promotion of lifestyles, because the responsibility is that of all, and that of each person is fundamental.
Sisters and brothers, a change of pace which is not a partial modification of course, but a new way of proceeding together, is essential. If on the path to the fight against climate change, opened in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the Paris Agreement marked “a new beginning” (ibid., not. 47), we must now restart the march. It is necessary to give a sign of hope concrete. May this COP be a turning point: may it demonstrate a clear and tangible political will, leading to a decisive acceleration of the ecological transition, through forms that have three characteristics: that they are “effective, binding and easily controllable” (ibid., not. 59). That they are implemented in four areas: energy efficiency, renewable sources, elimination of fossil fuels and education for lifestyles less dependent on them.
Please: let’s move forward, let’s not go back. It is well known that various agreements and commitments made “were only poorly implemented because no adequate mechanism for control, periodic review and sanction in the event of breach had been established” (Laudato si’, not. 167). This is about no longer postponing but implementing, and not just wishing for, the good of your children, your citizens, your countries, our world. Be the architects of a policy that provides answers concrete and coherent, by demonstrating the nobility of the role you play, the dignity of the service you perform. Because that’s what power is for, to serve. There is no point in preserving today an authority that will be remembered tomorrow only for its inability to intervene when it was urgent and necessary (cf. ibid., not. 57). History will thank you. Just like the societies in which you live, in which there is a harmful division between “supporters”: between the catastrophists and the indifferent, between the radical ecologists and the climate deniers… There is no point in entering into factions; in this case, as with the cause of peace, it leads to no solution. It is good policy that is the solution: if the top gives a concrete example of cohesion, the base will benefit, where very many people, particularly young people, are already involved in promoting home care common.
May 2024 mark a turning point. I would like an event that occurred in 1224 to be a good omen. That year, Francis of Assisi composed the Song of the Creatures. He did so after a night spent in physical pain, becoming completely blind. After this night of struggle, carried in his soul by a spiritual experience, he wanted to praise the Most High for these creatures whom he could no longer see, but whom he felt were his brothers and sisters, because they came from a same Father and shared with other men and women. An inspired feeling of fraternity led him to transform pain into praise and pain into commitment. Soon after, he added a verse in which he praised God for those who forgive, and he did so to settle – successfully! – a scandalous quarrel between the local Authority and the bishop. I too bear the name of Francis, with a vibrant tone of prayer, I would like to say to you: let’s put aside divisions and unite our forces! And, with God’s help, let us emerge from the night of wars and environmental devastation to transform our common future into a dawn of light. THANKS.