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CURRENT ISSUE:  October 5, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Typhoon, tsunami, quake: Agencies respond to four disasters in one week
Families losing homes organize in East Contra Costa to hold banks accountable for loan modifications
Catholic leaders call for
immediate action on climate change

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) — Climate change is more than an environmental concern; it is an issue of justice that merits immediate attention by world leaders. This was the message delivered repeatedly by Catholic participants in the Sept. 22 U.N. Summit on Climate Change in New York.

“It is unfair that people in developing countries pay the consequences for problems that rich countries have created,” said Elyzabeth Peredo, director of the Solon Foundation in Bolivia, at a Sept. 22 press conference.

As an example, she said Bolivia generates only 0.1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but melting glaciers caused by the warming effect of emissions worldwide endanger crops for small-scale farmers in communities throughout the country’s Andes mountains.

The proposals now under discussion at the United Nations set goals and targets for international investment in adaptation technologies to help countries withstand climate change.

“We have 2020 targets and even 2050 targets, but it’s necessary to act now to reduce the vulnerability of the poorest,” said Rene Grotenhuis, president of CIDSE, a Belgium-based international alliance of Catholic development agencies.

“We’re trying to put a human face on climate change,” he added. “Beyond the statistics, there are people living with the effects of climate change already. It’s necessary and urgent to get a bold and ambitious treaty in Copenhagen.”

Pope Benedict XVI urged world leaders to address global environmental issues “with generous courage” and reminded them that the world’s resources are to be shared by all, including poorer countries.

He said “creation is under threat” and that it was everyone’s responsibility to protect the environment because “the earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator.”

The pope’s message was sent by the Vatican to the climate change summit and appeared on the U.N. summit’s Web site. The papal message had been recorded during an Aug. 26 general audience in Castel Gandolfo, Italy.

Government leaders have an obligation to work together for the “protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate,” in respect of the law and in solidarity with weaker nations, he said.

Natural resources must be shared, he said, and the social and economic costs of consuming them “must be recognized with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations.”

The Sept. 22 summit, called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is a prelude to a comprehensive international climate change deal that will be finalized at the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The nonbinding convention, or treaty, was adopted in 1992 and aims to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system.

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