Something Hopeful in Copenhagen

Positive Steps Don’t Depend on Global Accord: Holy See

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark, DEC. 18, 2009 ( The biggest climate change talks of history wrapped up today amid a general sense of disappointment, but the Holy See had something hopeful to say.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the leader of the Holy See delegation in Copenhagen, and its permanent observer at the United Nations, said Thursday that the conference reiterates just how long it takes to come up with clear and firm political will.

But he said in his address to the conference, «society and local authorities did not wait for the expected political and legally binding conclusions of our meetings, which take such an incredibly long time. Instead, individuals, groups, local authorities and communities have already begun an impressive series of initiatives.»

The archbishop gave some suggestions about why it is so hard for international leaders to come to a consensus.

«Is this political will slow in taking shape due to the complexity of the interlinking issues that we must tackle?» he asked. «Is it mainly a problem of conflicting national interests? Or is it the difficulty in translating into numbers the by-now acquired principle of common and differentiated responsibility? Or is it still the predominance of energy policies over care of the environment?»

It’s all of the above, the prelate asserted.

Regardless, he said there are two cornerstones of the response to climate change: adaptation and mitigation.

«While technical solutions are necessary, they are not sufficient. The wisest and most effective programs focus on information, education, and the formation of the sense of responsibility in children and adults towards environmentally sound patterns of development and stewardship of creation,» the prelate contended.

And according to Archbishop Migliore, these initiatives «have already started to build up a mosaic of experiences and achievements marked by a widespread ecological conversion. These new attitudes and behaviors have the potential to create the necessary intra-generational and inter-generational solidarity and dispel any sterile sense of fear, apocalyptic terror, overbearing control and hostility toward humanity that are multiplied in media accounts and other reports.»

Leading the way

The Vatican representative concluded his talk affirming that the Holy See will continue to offer its support to the process.

And, he said, in its own small way, Vatican City is already setting the pace.

He noted the city-state’s projects «targeted at the development of renewable energy, with the objective of reducing emissions of CO2 and its consumption of fossil fuels.»

The Holy See is also «giving substance to the necessity to disseminate an education in environmental responsibility, which also seeks to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology,» the prelate affirmed.


Archbishop Migliore said these efforts «are about working on lifestyles, as the current dominant models of consumption and production are often unsustainable from the point of view of social, environmental, economic and even moral analysis. We must safeguard creation — soil, water and air — as a gift entrusted to everyone, but we must also and above all prevent mankind from destroying itself.»

«The degradation of nature is directly connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence,» he affirmed. «When the human ecology is respected within society, the environmental ecology will benefit. The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself.»

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