Nations have moral duty to fight climate change

A thermal power plant near residential buildings in Beijing, China. Photo: CNS/Reuters

In its statement, CIDSE accuased governments of procrastinating “while the vulnerable suffer and our planet literally burns before our eyes.”

MANCHESTER (CNS): In a statement released on September 19, ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit, slated to start on September 23 in New York, the United States (US), 20 member organisations of Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité Catholic, or CIDSE, described the rate of climate change as an emergency, a social crisis and an environmental catastrophe, and said that governments have an unprecedented “moral duty” to take urgent action to combat climate change.

The umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies from Europe and North America, which is mostly made up of Catholic aid agencies from Europe and North America, said targets to reduce global warming were too low and said governments must seek to reduce carbon emissions by 65 per cent if climate change was to be limited to a rise of less than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.

A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that a slightly higher increase would produce a rise in sea levels, flooding, heat waves, famine caused by poor crop yields and the loss of habitats such as coral reefs.

In its statement, CIDSE accused governments of procrastinating “while the vulnerable suffer and our planet literally burns before our eyes.”

It claimed the targets of most countries were supposed to limit global warming to 1.5C but in reality, allowed “for over 3.5 C of warming.”

“Leaders must heed the title of the summit, Climate Action, and fulfill their moral duty,” the statement said.

“There is no lack of ideas—just, sustainable and well-researched—for governments to implement an ecological transition,” it continued.

“Communities, social movements and civil society organisations have a wealth of expertise in innovative models of food and energy production proven to work at scale, such as agro-ecology and democratic renewable energy systems.”

The statement expressed skepticism about a range of other proposed solutions to climate change, such as geo-engineering, climate-smart agriculture, hydrofuel, agrofuels, the use of coal and nuclear energy and large-scale bioenergy.

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“It’s not enough to organise and participate in a summit, make some calls and recognise the emergency while doing little to address it,”  the statement said.

“Real commitment is demonstrated by policy targets, finance and implementation measured in reduced emissions. Real integrity is demonstrated by the coherence of implementation policies with social justice,” the group said.

“Bringing to scale the models and solutions proposed by civil society in policy at the national level would challenge the status quo of business as usual, but this is what has to be done. The scientific warnings will not cease,” the statement said. “The moral duty to act is unprecedented.”

CIDSE noted that Pope Francis declared a climate emergency on June 14, and that “hundreds of thousands of youths and adults will unite to strike” on September 20 in New York and around the world. “They deserve an answer and response to their calls.”

The groups that signed the statement included CAFOD (Catholic Agency For Overseas Development) of England and Wales, Trocaire of Ireland, Sciaf of Scotland, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns of the US and Development and Peace of Canada.

The summit will bring together about 60 nations that wish to build upon commitments made to tackle global warming under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, told a September 18 news conference that he expected to see new pledges to abandon fossil fuels.

“We are losing the fight against climate change,” he said. “I expect that there will be the announcement and unveiling of a number of meaningful plans on reducing emissions in the next decade and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Media reported that the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who spoke at the Climate Action Summit, rapped the US Congress on the knuckles telling them on September 18, “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

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She told them, “I want you to listen to the scientists,” she said. “And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action.”

CNN reported that millions of people from around 139 countries joined Thunberg in a worldwide climate strike on September 20.

Speaking at the Climate Action Summit on September 23, Thunberg eviscerated world leaders for their inertia and seeming inability to do anything concrete.

“You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal, The Guardian reported her as saying.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said.

“The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line,” Thunberg told the gathering leaders.

The US president, Donald Trump and Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, were conspicuous by their absence from the event.

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