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Pope pleads with COP28 to find breakthrough on climate change

by Reuters Journalist

Pope Francis on Saturday called on the U.N. climate summit to strive for a essential breakthrough agreement to stem global warming that includes the elimination of fossil fuels, saying climate had "run amok".

The 86-year-old pope had planned to attend the conference but a lung inflammation forced him to remain in the Vatican. His full address was left with delegates and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin shortened it in order to remain within the 3-minute time limit for speeches.

"Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired. Even so, I am with you, because time is short," Francis said in his message.

"I am with you because now more than ever, the future of us all depends on the present that we now choose. I am with you because the destruction of the environment is an offence against God," he said.

Francis has made defences of the environment a main part of the social teaching of his 10-year-old papacy, writing two major documents on the topic - in 2015 and this past October.

Francis returned to the main themes of both writings but in his message to COP28 delegates he appealed directly to them, saying "it is essential that there be a breakthrough that is not a partial change of course" in Dubai.

"May this COP prove to be a turning point, demonstrating a clear and tangible political will that can lead to a decisive acceleration of ecological transition," he said. 

To achieve this, he said it was necessary to move decidedly ahead with greater energy efficiency, renewable energy, the "elimination of fossil fuels" and a change of a wasteful lifestyle.

Saying that "the gap between the opulent few and the masses of the poor has never been so abysmal", the pontiff called for debt forgiveness for poor countries that are less responsible for greenhouse gasses but suffer more than advanced countries. 

He called this the repayment of "the ecological debt" that they are owed for suffering from something they did not cause.

"May we be attentive to the cry of the Earth, may we hear the plea of the poor, may we be sensitive to the hopes of the young and the dreams of children! We have a grave responsibility: to ensure that they not be denied their future," he said.

"The climate, run amok, is crying out to us to halt this illusion of omnipotence. Let us once more recognise our limits, with humility and courage, as the sole path to a life of authentic fulfilment," he said.

Neil Thorns, from the Catholic church's official aid orgainsation CAFOD, told Premier that the Pope's voice on climate carries weight regardless of people's faith persuasion:

"I think people see him as a strong history of being a champion, not just for the poorest, but also on the, for the environment for the on the climate crisis.

"And I think they also respect him, because he's someone who has, you kind of lives out if you like, his, his, his values. And I, and I think he also has an ability, because he's here is essentially a head of state. So he's head of the Vatican state.

"His words cut through because he's not just speaking on behalf of a small state, he's speaking about 3.2 billion Catholics around the world."

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