Paris climate talks: Improve or destroy, Pope Francis tells world leaders

Pope Francis has called on world leaders to reach a historic agreement to fight climate change and poverty at the Paris climate change conference dubbed COP21 that starts on Tuesday, saying that the world has a choice either to improve or to destroy the environment. 

While addressing the United Nations Environmental Programme in Nairobi Thursday, the pontiff said that he would be disappointed if vested interests carried the day at the Paris meeting at the expense of the common good of the people and the planet.

“What we need at the climate change talks is a sincere and open dialogue, with responsible cooperation on the part of all: political authorities, the scientific community, the business world and civil society,” he said in reference to the debacle amongst the world’s industrialised countries’ over the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions.

While recapping his September address at the United Nations Assembly, the pontiff said that climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods.

“It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.  Our response to this challenge needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged,” the pontiff said.

Pope Francis also spoke against poaching and illegal mining in the continent, key environmental issues that several African governments have been battling with.

Cry rising up

“We cannot be silent about forms of illegal trafficking as a result of poverty. Illegal trade in minerals, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the relative killing of elephants, fuels political instability, organised crime and terrorism. 

“This situation too is a cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself, one which needs to be heard by the international community,” he said.

The pontiff also called for a rethinking of the migrant crisis, adding that climate change has been a contributing factor in this immigration.

“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty aggravated by environmental degradation. They are not recognised by international conventions as refugees they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. 

“Many lives, many stories, many dreams have been shipwrecked in our day.  We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this.  We have no right,” Pope Francis said.

Free trade

Touching on the upcoming 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Nairobi, Pope Francis called for the attainment of an international system of commerce which is equitable and completely at the service of the battle against poverty and exclusion. 

“It is my hope that the deliberations of the forthcoming Nairobi Conference will not be a simple balancing of conflicting interests, but a genuine service to those in greatest need,” he said aocating for the regional free trade treaties in the areas of pharmaceutics and biotechnology, to be a “means for ensuring a minimum of health care and access to basic treatment for all,” the pope said.

SOURCE: The East African