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Pope’s Address to EU Environment Ministers

Focuses on Solidarity, Justice, Participation

This morning, before the Wednesday general audience, the Pope received the environment ministers of the European Union who will soon face two important events: the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the COP 21 in Paris. Francis remarked that their mission is increasingly important since the environment is a “collective good, a patrimony for all humanity, and the responsibility of each one of us – a responsibility that can only be transversal and which requires effective collaboration within the entire international community.”

Here is a Vatican Radio translation of his address:

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Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

I cordially greet all of you Environment Ministers of the European Union whose appointment, in recent years, has become increasingly important for the care of our common home. In fact, the environment is a collective heritage of all humanity, and each of us is responsible for it. It is a responsibility that can only be shared and that requires effective collaboration within the international community.

Thank you very much for having called this meeting which gives me the opportunity to share with you, if only briefly, some thoughts also in view of  important international events in the coming months: the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals at the end of this month and the Cop 21 Summit in Paris.

I would like to focus on three principles. First of all, the principle of solidarity, a word that is sometimes forgotten and other times abused in a sterile manner. We know that those who are most vulnerable to environmental degradation are the poor; they are the ones who suffer its most serious consequences. Thus, solidarity means the implementation of effective tools that are able to fight environmental degradation and poverty at the same time. There are many positive experiences in this regard. For example the development and transfer of appropriate technologies that are able to make the best possible use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are most readily available at a local level, in order to ensure their long-term sustainability.

Second, the principle of justice. In the “Laudato si’” encyclical I spoke of “ecological debt”, especially between North and South connected to trade imbalances with consequences in the context of ecology, as well as the disproportionate use of natural resources historically exploited  by some countries. We must honor this debt. These nations are called upon to contribute to solving this debt by setting a good example: limiting in a big way consumption of non-renewable energy; providing resources to countries in need for the promotion of policies and programmes for sustainable development; adopting appropriate systems for the management of forests, transportation, waste; seriously addressing the grave problem of food waste; favouring a circular model of economy; encouraging new attitudes and lifestyles.

Thirdly, the principle of participation, which requires the involvement of all stakeholders, even of those who often remain at the margins of decision-making. We live, in fact, in a very interesting historical time: on the one hand science and technology give us unprecedented power; on the other, a proper use of this power requires that we adopt a more integral and inclusive vision. This demands that we open the door to dialogue, a dialogue that is inspired by a vision which is rooted in that of integral ecology, the very subject of the “Laudato si’” encyclical.  This is obviously a big cultural, spiritual and educational challenge. Solidarity, justice and participation for the respect of our dignity and for respect of creation.

Dear Ministers, the Cop21 summit is fast approaching and there is still a long way to go to achieve a result that is capable of bringing together the many positive stimuli that have been offered as a contribution to this important process. I strongly encourage you to intensify your work, along with that of your colleagues, so that in Paris the desired result is achieved. On my part and on the part of Holy See there will be no lack of support for an adequate response to the cry of the Earth and to the cry of the poor. Thank you.

[Translation by Vatican Radio]

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