AS THE world gets ready for next week's expected publication of
Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment, negotiators met in
Bonn, Germany, to work on a global agreement to tackle climate
change which is due to be struck in Paris later this year.
The intervention of the Pope has raised awareness of the global
climate debate. The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo
Makgoba, attended the summit for the first time.
He is co-ordinating the Anglican "Eco Bishops" initiative: a
network of 20 leading Anglicans from around the world who are keen
to provide a spiritual vision on a subject that is often left to
economists, scientists, and politicians.
Archbishop Makgoba said that Christian leaders had an important
part to play: "We meet millions of people without coercion every
Sunday. They come every week to our churches and our house groups.
We have a mandate, but not a short-term one like politicians. We
are able to look long-term.
"We have a responsibility to shape God's people so they reflect
the nature of God, which is love, hope, compassion, forgiveness,
and inclusivity. We don't exist for ourselves: we exist for
At the talks in Bonn, climate sceptics were thin on the ground.
But the Pope's impending contribution to the debate has drawn the
ire of some, especially in the United States, where he will address
Congress in September.
Rick Santorum, the Roman Catholic senator who is running for the
Republican presidential nomination, recently called on the Pope to
keep quiet on the issue. But he was rebuked this week by the Fox
News host Chris Wallace, who, while noting that Pope Francis had a
science degree, unlike Mr Santorum, asked: "I guess the question
would be: if he shouldn't talk about it, should you?"
In the UK, the papal encyclical is likely to coincide with a
mass lobby of Parliament. Thousands of people are being asked to
travel to Westminster next Wednesday to speak to their MP about
making climate change a priority.
As well as a rally, there will be an ecumenical service at which
the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, will speak. The
Bishop, who returned last week from Malawi, where he saw effects
attributed to climate change, said: "The changing climate is
affecting all of us, but is pressing hardest on those who are most
"As the Church, we are called to serve the world's poorest
people; that's why we need to speak up and call our government to
The lobby is being supported by the Climate Coalition,
consisting of more than 100 organisations, including Christian Aid
and the Salvation Army.
The UN summit in Paris later this year has started to inspire
acts of solidarity among faith groups around the globe. In the
vulnerable Pacific island of Vanuatu last week, the former
climate-change commissioner for the Philippines, Yeb Sano, launched
the Global People's Pilgrimage, on which people from every
continent will walk to demonstrate their concern and call for a
strong deal in Paris.
"In our common aspiration to confront the climate crisis, we
cannot afford to say that we'll cross the bridge when we get there.
We have to get there now," he said.
A sign that governments are starting to take the climate issue
seriously was this week's meeting of G7 leaders. The communiqué
made front-page headlines around the world when the leading
industrial nations agreed to phase out fossil fuels by the end of
Joe Ware is Church and Campaigns Journalist for Christian