Pope warns against environmental-risk activities

By: EUNICE KILONZO

Pope Francis has issued a warning against illegal trade in wildlife and minerals such as diamonds and precious stones, which he says “fuels political instability, organized crime and terrorism.”

Terming the illegal trade in rare metals or those of great strategic value, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the relative killing of elephants as “a cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself, one which needs to be heard by the international community.”

The spoke on Thursday when he visited the global headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) in Nairobi.

He said Africa offers the world a beauty and natural richness, which inspire praise of the Creator.

He however decried that this is constantly exposed to the risk of destruction caused by human selfishness of every type and by the abuse of situations of poverty and exclusion.

“In the context of economic relationships between States and between peoples, we cannot be silent about forms of illegal trafficking which arise in situations of poverty and in turn lead to greater poverty and exclusion,” said the Pope in his nearly 28 minutes address in Nairobi.

His statements come barely four days before world leaders meet in Paris, France, for a climate change conference dubbed COP21.

He said it would be “catastrophic” for world leaders to let special interest groups get in the way of a global agreement in the Paris talks to curb fossil fuel emissions.

“It would be sad, and dare I say even catastrophic, were special interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and interests,” said the Pope.

The Pope spoke hours after he celebrated a public Mass at the University of Nairobi sports ground where the Argentine pope received a joyous celebration and cheers in the morning mass.

Pope Francis does not shy away from ecological concerns, issues that have marked his papacy which have among other things included a landmark encyclical that called on environment preservation and care for the young, elderly and the ill.

CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Unep Executive Director Achim Steiner praised Pope Francis’ moral leadership on the issues of climate change and environment, saying it added global momentum to efforts to close the emissions gap and implement Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Addressing the world just a few days before the Paris climate conference, with the future of this planet hanging in the balance, you (Pope Francis) reminds world leaders, business leaders and individual citizens that we each have not only a responsibility, but an obligation to act on what our conscience tells us to be right,” Mr Steiner said.

“In this pivotal year, your powerful notion of the ‘globalization of indifference’ speaks to the heart of the practical and ethical challenges ahead: both to reach a climate change agreement in Paris and to deliver it within the much broader, holistic spectrum of sustainable development that must leave no one behind.”

Pope Francis planted a tree, the Olea capensis, an indigenous tree found across the continent of Africa, on the grounds of the UN headquarters before his talk.

Pope Francis said: “Planting a tree is first and foremost an invitation to continue the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification,” he said.

“Planting a tree is also an incentive to keep trusting, hoping, and above all working in practice to reverse all those situations of injustice and deterioration which we currently experience.”

Mr Steiner took Pope Francis on a tour of the Unep offices, a sustainable facility powered largely by solar panels, to demonstrate renewable energy and energy efficiency in practice.

There, Mr Steiner presented Pope Francis with an elephant created from discarded flip-flops (a product designed to draw attention to the issue of marine litter and plastic waste) as a token of his appreciation for the Pope’s commitment to the environment.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION