By Jaazeal Jakosalem, ARCORES International’s president
And the second part here.
The relevance of the document
In this exhortation Pope Francis is highly critical of the weakness of international politics and climate conferences, clearly indicating much of the failures than the outcomes, indicating progress the least.
It can be recalled that during the COP21 climate talks in Paris, this was his message prior to the signing of the Paris Agreement: “It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects […] I express my hope that COP21 will achieve a global and ‘transformational’ agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity.” Some of these terms appeared in equivalent terms in Laudate Deum.
Pope Francis’ own reluctance with international bodies and governments, was expressed during the COP25 in Madrid (2019), he says “we must seriously ask ourselves if there is the political will to allocate with honesty, responsibility and courage, more human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, as well as to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations who suffer from them the most.”
Thus, we can ask the following relevant questions:
What is the impact of the document on international bodies?
While clearly indicating that many conferences have failed, and with ripple effects for failing humanity, and nature; Pope Francis suggests an involvement process, involving civil societies and even people impacted by the climate crisis to address climate change—it calls for involvement on the part of all (LD, 58).
On the other hand, discouraging <…> multilateralism with a world authority concentrated in one person or in an elite with excessive power: ‘When we talk about the possibility of some form of world authority regulated by law, we need not necessarily think of a personal authority’ <…> (LD, 35), and ‘to support institutions in order to preserve the rights of the more powerful without caring for those of all’ (LD, 43); at the same time encouraging <…> a new sensitivity towards the more vulnerable and less powerful… It is another way of encouraging multilateralism for the sake of resolving the real problems of humanity, securing before all else respect for the dignity of persons, in such a way that ethics will prevail over local or contingent interests <…> (LD, 39)
What is the impact of the document on the faith communities?
The solidarity of faith communities is important to address the climate crisis, he says in the document ‘God has united us to all his creatures’ (LD, 66), and the richness of Christian faith from biblical sources to greening practices as conveyed in Laudato Si’ can contribute to the global call for climate action: “in a humbler but more fruitful way” (LD, 68). He models Jesus as a reference to commune with people and nature, describing him with ‘tenderness…for all the beings’ (LD, 1), and somebody ‘in constant touch with nature’ (LD, 64).
Nonetheless, Pope Francis dares to encourage us: ‘the mere fact that personal, family and community habits are changing is contributing to greater concern about the unfulfilled responsibilities of the political sectors and indignation at the lack of interest shown by the powerful’ (LD, 71), more transformative than what is done by political and business actors.
As we have seen the progress being made by faith communities globally on climate action, smaller and yet determined efforts in dioceses, parishes, and academic institutions—faith communities can truly make a difference.
Thus, it is important that we make real changes, that can be done in a transversal manner, institutional and personal changes. Pope Francis says ‘the need to realize that there are no lasting changes without cultural changes, without a maturing of lifestyles and convictions within societies, and there are no cultural changes without personal changes’ (LD, 70).