Thursday 3 November 2011
Statement of the Holy See before the Second Committee of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Item 19(d): Protection of Global Climate for Present and Future Generations, New York, 3 November 2011
Statement of the Holy See66th session of the United Nations General AssemblyBefore the Second Committee,on Item 19(d): Protection of Global Climate for Present and Future GenerationsNew York, 3 November 2011Mr. Chairman,Global climate change represents a serious threat to sustainable development. Despite more than a decade of climate change negotiations, no multilateral binding agreement of joint action has yet been reached to reduce carbon dioxide levels; in the meantime, carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase. While the impact of climate change is felt globally, developing countries, with their higher dependence on agricultural production and a higher proportion of the world’s agricultural labor force, have a particular vulnerability to the drastic weather conditions that are frequently the consequences of global climate change. The Secretary- General has rightly identified climate change as a priority area for international cooperation (Address to the General Assembly, September 21, 2011). As yet another opportunity approaches later this year in Durban, South Africa, to reach a global accord on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions , my delegation would like to bring to your attention the recent reflections of Pope Benedict XVI from his encyclical, ‘Caritas in veritate’, regarding our collective responsibilities for environmental stewardship.We start from the premise that the environment is God’s gift to everyone. It is thus much more than a raw material presenting an opportunity for individual gain. In our use of the environment, we have ‘a responsibility to consider its impact on the poor, on future generations, and on humanity as a whole’. As a result, in any integral development involving the earth’s natural resources, such developments must be characterized by principles of solidarity and inter-generational justice, which take into account the full context of the project’s development, not only economic but also ecological, social, juridical, political, cultural and ethical aspects.Energy generation, and in particular fossil-fuel based electric power, is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, the care and preservation of the environment today is closely linked to energy related issues. Historically, developed countries have been the primary source of carbon dioxide emissions with the contribution from developing countries increasing rapidly only in recent years.  It is precisely because of these different historical contributions made to climate change by developed and developing countries that there must be  equity and justice in the burden of responsibility for finding solutions to these problems.These global responsibilities are not simply limited to the development of energy resources; they extend to the whole of creation. We cannot pass on to future generations a  world depleted of its natural resources or one that has become increasingly vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change. There is an obligation that we must exercise, namely that of responsible stewardship of the natural environment. Responsible stewardship implies first, protecting the environment from a purely mercantile exploitation of its natural resources that disregards the impact on local communities or on future generations; second, fully enjoying its fruits, namely the land, water resources and clean air that all human beings need to survive   and, third, in order to accommodate and feed the world’s population, making productive use of “new possibilities that are opening up through proper use of traditional as well as innovative farming techniques, always assuming that these have been judged, after sufficient testing, to be appropriate, respectful of the environment and attentive to the needs of the most deprived peoples” (Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in veritate, #27).Of course, the achievement of this goal presupposes a serious obligation on our part to ensure that the earth is handed on to future generations in a condition that enables it to continue to be inhabited and further cultivated. All countries must make a commitment to work together towards this goal through decisions that are taken collectively. Such collaboration between the world’s nations requires that the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are first recognized by those responsible, and not by countries which had no responsibility for such costs, nor by passing on such costs irresponsibly to future generations. Consequently, the protection of the environment will require a greater readiness on the part of all nations to work in good faith, respect the law and stand in solidarity with the poorest regions of the planet.Mr. Chairman,In closing, my delegation wishes to stress the need to adopt a coherent and consistent approach to environmental concerns, what Pope Benedict refers to as a “human ecology”, which is to say that in order to protect nature, it is not sufficient to intervene only with economic incentives and deterrents or with the education of society, important as these measures may be, so long as there is meanwhile a lack of respect for life in the human family. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties toward the human person. We cannot advocate one set of duties while disregarding others. It is the lack of such a coherent plan in society today that constitutes both a serious flaw and a contradiction in our approach to protecting the environment which must be overcome.Thank you, Mr. Chairman.