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Time is short for the planet, warn Pope and UN head

13 December 2007

by Bill Bowder

To the streets: Christians held a march in central London on Saturday to demand action on climate change. After a service in St Matthew’s, Westminster, protesters joined a rally by the National Campaign against Climate Change MARK BOULTON

To the streets: Christians held a march in central London on Saturday to demand action on climate change. After a service in St Matthew’s, Westminster...

THE POPE and the UN Secretary General both said this week that the world had only a short time to sort out climate change.

Benedict XVI said in a message, which was timed to coincide with the UN conference in Bali on climate change (Comment, 30 November), and issued in advance for the World Day of Peace on 1 January, that the time to save the planet as the common home of humanity was short. He called on the world to be ready to create a new international agency to guide the response to climate change.

The Pope rejected the idea that animals or “material” was more important than humans, who were “of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole”. But humans had to make sure that the world was protected and cultivated responsibly. Nature, in all its richness, should be cared for.

What was essential, he said, was “to ‘sense’ that the earth is ‘our common home’, and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions”.

Dialogue needed to intensify between the technologically advanced nations, with their high energy consumption, and the emerging nations, who were “hungry for energy”. Developed countries should reassess their developments so that they used less material. Poorer countries should not be forced to undersell their energy resources, he said.

At the meeting in Bali on Wednesday, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said that the “time to act is now”. An agenda must be set that would lead to a climate treaty by 2009. “We gather because the time for equivocation is over,” he said. “The science is clear. Climate change is happening. The impact is real.”

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who has brought his country into the Kyoto Protocol, told the conference that Australia would commit itself to “real” and “robust” targets to slash greenhouse-gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 from 2000 levels. Countries that had not signed up to Kyoto — the US is the only large developed one — should “embrace comparable efforts in order to bring about the global outcomes the world now expects”.

The US said it wanted a treaty, but with no greenhouse-gas targets.

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