Seventy-Fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Second Committee Agenda Item 19 on “Sustainable Development” United Nations, New York, October 13, 2020.
Protecting our common home for present and future generations is one of the most urgent demands of our time. Like all global challenges, it requires the unified response of the international community, based on consensus and shared commitment. An interdependent world, as the one in which we live as members of one human family, requires us to think in terms of one world with a common project. Through the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Paris Agreement, the international community has addressed – and must continue to address – climate change, natural disasters, and environmental degradation on three levels.
First, mitigation. It is essential to strengthen our common efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are, once again, on the rise globally. If current trends continue, global warming is set to cross the 1.5°C benchmark between 2030 and 2052. Therefore, developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, advancing sustainable consumption and production patterns, and assessing different solutions to mitigate climate change using the precautionary principle are fundamental steps to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Second, adaptation. Taking appropriate action to prevent or minimize the damage that the adverse effects of climate change can cause is vital to reduce vulnerability to it. This includes strengthening the socio-economic structures and increasing people’s and communities’ resilience. Greater attention must also be given to the human, material and economic losses caused by climate-related disasters.
Third, disaster risk reduction. Climate change is one of the drivers of disaster risk as it increases the intensity of hazards such as excessive rainfall, floods, landslides, sea-level rise, and drought. Therefore, exploring the complementarities between the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework, as well as harmonizing measures for climate adaptation and mitigation with those concerned with disaster risk reduction are essential aspects of climate action.
Climate action, however, requires more than finding technical solutions for particular problems. The “human face” of climate change should not be forgotten. Every day across the world, children, women, and men bear the burden of climate change consequences and climate-related disasters. For them, this phenomenon is not an abstract environmental question, but rather an existential threat attacking their already precarious habitats and destabilizing their vulnerable economies, societies, agriculture, and food systems. Therefore, overcoming this obstacle also means addressing poverty, inequality, social injustice, and all other forms of degradation affecting people’s lives, especially in the poorest countries. The fight against climate change is a question of justice and a moral imperative. It should combine protecting the environment with advancing the dignity of the human person, eradicating poverty and promoting integral human development, and caring for both present and future generations.
“Nothing will happen unless political and technical solutions are accompanied by a process of education which proposes new ways of living. […] This calls for an educational process which fosters in boys and girls, women and men, young people and adults, the adoption of a culture of care – care for oneself, care for others, care for the environment – in place of a culture of waste, a ‘throw-away culture’ where people use and discard themselves, others and the environment.”
In this endeavor, the Holy See will continue to play its part. As a further sign of its longstanding commitment to the protection of our common home, the Holy See has recently ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and will continue to work with the international community to advance climate action, especially through the many projects and initiatives that Catholic institutions and faith-based organizations are carrying out worldwide to support people and communities affected by climate change.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Sì, 164. Cf., Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty, 2019; cf., Independent Group of Scientists appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General, Global Sustainable Development Report 2019: The Future is Now – Science for Achieving Sustainable Development, 2019. Cf., Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015. Cf., Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, paragraph 13. Cf., Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge and New York 2012. Pope Francis, Message to the Participants in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1 December 2019. Cf. Pope Francis, Address to the U.N.O.N., 26 November 2015. Cf., Pope Francis, pre-recorded Message during the General Debate of the Seventy-Fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 25 September 2020.
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