Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
High-level Meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development for All
New York, 29 March 2019
The Holy See is pleased to participate in this High-level Meeting on the protection of the global climate and welcomes its focus on present and future generations. Indeed, the centrality of the human person must always be reaffirmed in the context of the current environmental challenges.
Pope Francis reminded us during a recent conference held in the Vatican that “three and a half years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, we must be even more acutely aware of the importance of accelerating and adapting our actions in responding adequately to both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” In reality, genuine care for the environment involves not only attention given to our common home but also to our brothers and sisters in this home. Therefore, it demands an integrated ethical approach that simultaneously cares for the environment while it combats poverty and exclusion, assures the collective enjoyment of the common good, and fosters intergenerational solidarity.
This ethical approach to the current crisis must inspire solidarity with future generations. As Pope Francis recalled in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, “Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” From this perspective, we have a great responsibility towards future generations, which are represented by the youth of our present generation. With their strong sensitivity towards the complex and multifaceted problems that are raised by the phenomenon of climate change, today’s young people are showing us the way.
We must avoid burdening future generations with the problems that present and past generations have created by taking our share of responsibility for finding solutions to the environmental problems we have caused. As Pope Francis has stressed: “Although the postindustrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities”.
After the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the Katowice Climate Package, we know what the present generation can and must do, and we know it knows how to do it. What are often lacking are political will and a greater ambition as well as a sense of urgency in implementing mitigation and adaptation measures, and in financial and technological investments for a healthier planet. Decisions must not and should no longer be taken in terms of the maximum profit at the expense of the health of the planet.
At the end of the day, the conversation on the environmental crisis must go beyond frightening scientific predictions of doom and gloom, because fear is not the best motivator to take action: it is rather the ethical conviction that we are stewards of our common home, and that every generation is entrusted with the responsibility to care for it and the privilege to enjoy its multiple wonders. It is deeper motivations for action that inspire ways of consumption and lifestyles that not only avoid further harming the environment, but also contribute to the healing process of our ailing common home.
Thank you, Madam President.
1. Pope Francis, Address to Participants at the Conference on “Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Listening to the cry of the earth and of the poor”, 8 March 2019.
2. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 159.
3. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 165.