The Vatican’s top spokesman on social justice told delegates at a UN conference in New York that the world needs to find new ways of understanding progress and economic growth if it is to reverse global warming and overcome poverty.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told delegates on Monday that the biggest challenge in reducing poverty and environmental degradation was neither scientific nor technological, “but rather within our minds and hearts”.
Turkson added that to achieve these twin aims mankind would need “seriously to review the dominant model of development, production, commerce and consumption”.
The “High-Level Event on Climate Change” was opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who told delegates climate change and sustainable development were two sides of the same coin, “with two mutually reinforcing agendas”.
The conference was convened ahead of key UN climate conferences and a summit in Paris in December at which delegates will aim to agree targets to succeed the 1992 Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Ban said the progress of negotiations was too slow and “governments must accelerate their efforts”.
Cardinal Turkson quoted extensively from Pope Francis’ new encyclical letter on care for creation, Laudato si’. “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods … Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.”
In April Mr Ban, who warmly welcomed Laudato si’, gave the keynote address at a climate change conference hosted by Cardinal Turkson in the Vatican.
Naomi Klein, the anti-globalisation activist, spoke on Wednesday at a climate change conference in Rome this week organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Alliance of Catholic Development Organisations (CIDSE).
Organisers said the conference, “People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course” will examine Laudato Si''s guidance for reducing climate change and developing economies and lifestyles that aim to “ensure the well-being of the earth, so that it may provide for the dignified existence of the human person”.
Ms Klein told The Observer the Pope’s position as a “moral voice” in the world enables him to unite campaigners fighting for a common goal. “The holistic view of the encyclical should be a catalyst to bring together the twin economic and climate crises, instead of treating them separately,” she said.
Among other speakers were the Co-Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, and Bernd Nilles, Secretary General of CIDSE.