16 May 2024, The Tablet

Sadiq Khan and Pope Francis share message of hope and action on climate


The Pope and his team of advisers were “well aware” of issues in London, the mayor said.


Sadiq Khan and Pope Francis share message of hope and action on climate

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had a private audience with Pope Francis, when he gave him a “book” of four teas from the London Tea Exchange.
Vatican Media via Mayor of London’s office

Pope Francis is highly regarded as a leader on addressing issues of climate change, not just by Catholics but by members of all faiths and none, according to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

In Rome to meet the Pope for the first time and attend a climate summit at the Vatican with leaders of other cities from around the world, Khan told The Tablet it was “a huge privilege and honour to spend time with Pope Francis”.

He said he was “very impressed” by the depth of the Pope’s knowledge of the climate crisis and related issues but also loved “his ability to be hopeful”.

Khan, a practising Muslim, said: “He is not just a leader for the Catholic world. For those of us who are not Christian, not Catholic, he is a leader for us as well.”

He said the Pope and his team of advisers were “well aware” of issues in London, and had followed the results of the recent elections, as had the other mayors and local government leaders in Rome for the conference today.

Khan’s victory, and especially the size of his victory, was being widely noted and seen as encouraging for other city leaders trying to achieve similar transformations in terms of air quality, reduced emissions, planting trees and other related issues.

The city leaders were taking the chance to share among themselves best practice along with the challenges they had faced, said Khan. They were all encouraged to realise that Pope Francis regarded them as the “doers” who were in positions where they could act, and were acting, to bring about effective change.

Khan was acting in his role both as Mayor of London and as co-chair of C40 Cities at the “Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience” conference today at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

During his speech, Khan said: “Today and all days, we’re reminded that faith is not a catalyst for division but a mainspring for unity. Indeed, the Bible teaches ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.’ While in Islam, Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon Him) said, ‘The Earth is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it.’

“Regardless of the differing beliefs we live our lives by, we share a collective duty as custodians of this planet. We inherited it from the generation that came before and our goal is to pass on a sustainable one to generation that comes after.”

Speaking about the urgency of the climate crisis, he added: “We convene today in recognition of an incontrovertible truth: that our species is waging war on the natural world, one that will ultimately lead to our ruin. Our lands are searing, our oceans are poisoned. The soil, air, water, everything that sustains life on earth is under threat as never before.

“Our hopes of keeping 1.5 alive hang by a thread. The only viable future possible is one free from the grip of fossil fuels. And yet, 80 per cent of global energy demand is still being met by burning the lethal resources which will render our common home unliveable.

“As the Holy Father reminds us, the climate crisis is intimately related to the dignity of human life. Whether in London or across the globe, it’s the most vulnerable – those who’ve contributed the least to this catastrophe – who are forced to shoulder the heaviest burden of its consequences. Time is short. We need to get to work.”

In an online comment for The Tablet, Khan said: “Regardless of the differing beliefs we live our lives by, we share a collective duty as custodians of this planet. We inherited it from the generation that came before, and our shared goal is to pass on a sustainable one to the generation that comes after. And by working between faith traditions on the climate crisis, we double our gains. Not only do we make progress in addressing the great challenge of our era, but we also build respect, friendships and compassion in the process.”

Among those present at the conference were the mayors of Boston, Paris, Rome, Athens and Milan, alongwith other leaders including Ggvernor of California, Gavin Newsom, governor of New York Kathy Hochul, Hoesung Lee, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.

Khan addressed the UN Climate Ambition Summit at the UN General Assembly last year, where he referred to cities as “climate titans”, using their “might and muscle” to make a decisive difference to bring down carbon emissions, and warning fossil fuel companies to either “get on board, or get left behind”.

In his own speech, Pope Francis, whose work on climate and his encyclical Laudato Si’ will be regarded as among his greatest legacies, told the conference that poorer peoples, who have very little to do with the pollution of the environment, need to receive greater support and protection and that they are victims.

“At present, we find ourselves faced with systemic challenges that are distinct yet interconnected: climate change, the loss of biodiversity, environmental decay, global disparities, lack of food security and threats to the dignity of the peoples affected by them.

“Unless these issues are faced urgently and collectively, they represent existential threats for our human family, for other living beings and for all ecosystems. One thing, however, should be clear. The world’s poor suffer more, even though they contribute less to these problems.”


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