The Vatican has called the fight against climate change “a moral and religious imperative”.
In a Final Declaration issued at the end of a one-day symposium on the environment organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, delegates, who included religious and political leaders, said that human-induced climate change was a “scientific reality”.
Because it had a disproportionate impact on the poor and vulnerable, they agreed, counteracting its effects was essential for the future of humanity.
"In the face of the emergencies of human-induced climate change, social exclusion, and extreme poverty, we join together to declare that: human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity," they said.
"In this core moral space, the world's religions play a very vital role,” they concluded.
The delegates, among whom were African Cardinal Peter Turkson and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, also stressed that the knowledge and technology to mitigate climate change and end extreme poverty exists, and called for better financing for sustainable development, particularly the use of low-carbon energy.
Looking ahead to a landmark climate conference in Paris later this year, the delegates urged political leaders to commit to “a bold climate agreement” that would aim to confine global warming to a safe limit.
On Tuesday Pope Francis met Mr Ban to discuss the moral issues around climate change ahead of the symposium.
Mr Ban said that the conversation was “fruitful and wide ranging.”
Afterwards he told the symposium organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a Vatican advisory body that has a majority of non-Catholic scientists, that climate change was a moral issue and “the defining issue of our time” and said that a forecast rise of 4-5 degrees Celsius “would alter life on earth as we know it. It contradicts our responsibility to be good stewards of creation.”
He looked forward to Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment and said that it was critical that world leaders hear his “strong moral voice”.
He told the conference that their influence was enormous and spoke to “the heart of humanity’s deepest hopes and needs”, and urged them to also work to reduce their carbon footprint and encourage Catholics to do the same.
“Science and religion are not at odds on climate change. Indeed, they are fully aligned,” he said.
“Together, we must clearly communicate that the science of climate change is deep, sound and not in doubt. Climate change is occurring – now - and human activities are the principal cause.”
On Monday a group of scientists who deny climate change is the result of human activity hosted a conference near the Vatican to urge the Pope not to “put the enormous weight of your moral authority behind the discredited and scandal-prone United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”
The Heartland Institute, which calls itself “the world’s leading think tank promoting scientific scepticism about man-caused global warming,” called on the Pope to instead “speak out for the poor and disadvantaged of the world who need affordable and reliable energy to escape grinding poverty.”