October 15, 2019
Statement on Sustainable Development

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
2nd Committee Agenda Item 19: Sustainable Development
New York, 15 October 2019

Mr. Chair,

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development points out that “the future of humanity and of our planet lies … in the hands of today’s generation who will pass the torch to future generations.” In the same vein, Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, highlights that the global economic crisis has made clear that “we can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity.”[1] He urges us to ask ourselves what kind of world “we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”[2] Such a question concerns not only the environment, but the general direction, meaning and values of our humanity. Answering it requires a holistic and ethical approach, grounded in what Pope Francis calls “integral ecology.”[3] Indeed, genuine care for our planet cannot be limited to a mere change in our models of production and consumption. It requires, first and foremost, giving attention to our brothers and sisters with whom we share this common home, as well as to those who come after us. The environmental degradation that we are experiencing every day is connected to human, ethical and social breakdowns.

Mr. Chair,

Protecting our planet and thinking about future generations are deeply linked to our subject today. Taking up the challenge of integral, sustainable development requires a major shift in our development paradigms. We cannot adopt a sectorial approach that reduces sustainable development to economic growth, environmental protection and technological progress. We must keep front and center the inherent dignity of each person as well as the promotion of the common good. This requires not only going beyond the pursuit of maximizing profits at any cost, the culture of instant gratification, unbridled consumerism, and viewing nature as an inexhaustible source of supplies for those who can pay. Integral sustainable development means also tempering such tendencies with the fundamental demands of human dignity and the common good. Solidarity among generations is not only essential to attaining sustainable development, but is also a basic question of justice with its foundation in the recognition that our world is “the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone.”[4] 

Over the last few years we have witnessed many encouraging signs in the fight against environmental degradation and the adverse effects of climate change. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement, and the Katowice Climate Package demonstrate the growing awareness that the protection of our common home requires concerted effort, in line with the fundamental principles of equity and common, but differentiated, responsibilities and respective capabilities.

Despite the progress made in the implementation of existing environmental conventions and agreements,[5] many challenges remain to make our commitment global and effective. While climate change is happening much faster than anticipated, and while its effects are obvious worldwide, the Paris Agreement is still waiting to be implemented.

To protect our planet and avoid burdening future generations with the problems that past and present generations have created, it is no longer enough simply to state that we should be concerned for the environment and for those who come after us. We need to join our efforts to promote a type of progress that “is healthier, more human, more social, more integral,”[6]

Thank you Mr. Chair.


1. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 160.

2. Laudato Si’, 162.

3. Laudato Si’, 160.

4. Laudato Si’, 95.

5. Implementation of United Nations environmental conventions. Note by the Secretary-General, A/74/207.

6. Pope Francis, video message for the Climate Action Summit, 74th Session of the General Assembly.