VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis told world leaders gathered at the United Nations on Monday that climate change was a “challenge of civilisation” they had to tackle while a window of opportunity was still open.
In a video broadcast to the UN Climate Action Summit, Francis called for honesty, responsibility and courage to face what he called “one of the most serious and worrying phenomena of our time”.
Leaders had to conjure up the political will to tackle it.
“While the situation is not good and the planet is suffering, the window of opportunity is still open. We are still in time,” he said. “Let us not let it close. Let us open it with our determination to cultivate integral human development, to ensure a better life for future generations. It is their future, not ours.” Francis, who has called for the gradual elimination of fossil fuels, said the climate change crisis should make people re-think models of consumption and production.
“We are facing a ‘challenge of civilisation’ in favour of the common good. And this is clear, just as it is clear that we have a multiplicity of solutions that are within everyone’s reach, if we adopt on a personal and social level a lifestyle that embodies honesty, courage and responsibility,” he said.
Francis wrote an encyclical in 2015 on environmental protection, which was a main topic of his trip to Africa earlier this month.
Thousands of environmental protesters blocked traffic in central Washington on Monday to demand action on climate change in the capital of one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases.
Small group of demonstrators gathered at key intersections in the city to “bring attention to everybody that this is not just Washington DC, this is the entire planet,” said protester Maryan Pollock.
The street protests came as world leaders gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York for a special summit on climate change.
Just a few blocks from the White House, members of the Extinction Rebellion group towed a pink sailboat to block K Street, famous for its lobbying firms.
“The boat reminds us that (Washington) DC will be under water because of rising sea levels,” said Pollock.
Several activists chained themselves to the boat to prevent police from moving dispersing them, forcing officers to use buzz saws to cut them loose.
“We put pressure on politicians to wake up, that this is a real crisis, this is an emergency,” said Pollock, saying the demonstrators were “for those who don’t have a voice in the US government, because we are the number one polluter on the planet.” She called on people to eat less meat and dairy, use less plastic, ride bicycles and cut down on the use of fossil fuels. “Stop buying things on Amazon,” she said.
The online shopping giant Amazon built its market by using a network of delivery trucks, giving it a major carbon footprint.
Ethan Rooney, 29, demanded massive investment in “green infrastructure… so that we can have renewable energy and a renewable grid and provide electricity to the planet, keep people fed, clothed without putting carbon in the air.” Despite some tension between police and demonstrators, the protests remained peaceful.
“It’s long overdue,” said Kathy Gardner, who had stopped to watch the protest with a coffee cup in her hand.
“I’m a child of the 70s, I think you have to protest to get your voice heard. I am a science person so I understand the need to save the planet, we can’t ignore it.” — AFP