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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 21, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA
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Church officias healtls encouraged
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$1.2 million to Catholic Charities for housing help
Catholic delegation seeks climate
deal to ease burden on poor

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The world’s developed countries are responsible for taking necessary steps to ease the burden climate change places on the planet’s poorest and most vulnerable people, said a European cardinal who will address the Sept. 22 U.N. Summit on Climate Change in New York.

“I think climate change is another situation where the poor of the world are being made to suffer more and more because of the habits of the First World, us,” Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh told Catholic News Service Sept. 15. “They (poor people) haven’t caused the problems, and yet they’re paying for it.

CNS graphic/Emily Thompson
“I see it as a moral imperative of any Christian, particularly a Christian leader, to hear the cry of the poor. It’s a moral imperative to speak out about climate change. It fires my vocation as a bishop,” he said.

The cardinal is one of 15 members of a Catholic delegation attending the U.N. summit. The group was assembled by CIDSE, a Brussels, Belgium-based international alliance of Catholic development agencies, and Caritas Internationalis, the largest network of Catholic charities in the world, involving 164 agencies.

Called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Sept. 22 summit is seen as the final opportunity to build momentum while mobilizing the political will and vision that will lead to a comprehensive climate change deal at the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 7-18 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The framework convention, or treaty, has the goal of preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. It was adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but it is nonbinding.

The Catholic delegates have been busy seeking meetings with heads of state during the Sept. 22 summit.

One delegate, Jesuit Father Jim Hug, president of the Center of Concern in Washington, said the Catholic team plans to ask world leaders to make reaching a new climate change agreement their highest political priority.

While representatives of the 192 countries that are parties to the climate change convention meet annually to review progress on implementing it, this year’s meeting in Denmark is viewed as pivotal to the campaign to reverse the causes of climate change. The convention’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expires in 2012.

Observers said that while an agreement at Copenhagen need not resolve all details, it must address four main issues:

• Meaningful emission reduction targets for developed countries.

• Steps to ease climate change’s effects on developing countries.

• Building financial and technological support to help countries adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change.

• Developing an effective institutional framework supported by governance structures that address the needs of developing countries.

Father Hug told CNS that it is important for heads of state to be involved in reaching a new agreement in Copenhagen to demonstrate they are serious about easing the impact of climate change on developing countries.

“If we get heads of state at Denmark, then the stakes are much higher,” he said.

“This is not something we can wait on. We’re eager to get a commitment from heads of state to go to Copenhagen and participate in the process,” he said.

Delegate Janet Mangera, executive secretary of Caritas Kenya, said the issue is “social justice.”
“It is important to mitigate the problem, that the world begin to address the issue,” she said.

She cited some of the difficulties Kenyans have experienced in recent years because of severe drought linked to climate change. She said hydroelectric power generation has fallen because of reduced water flows across the country, and Caritas has tried to meet the growing needs for water in both rural and urban locations.

As a member of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group, Caritas Kenya has joined efforts to prod the government to take climate change and global warming seriously.

“The most affected are the poor,” Mangera said.

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