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COP28: Pope Francis calls for UN talks to be a "turning point" in the climate crisis

2 December 2023
Asia - UAE - COP28 - Cardinal Parolin reads Pope Francis message - 20231202

Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican's Secretary of State, read the Pope's message to negotiators at COP28. Pope Francis was forced to cancel his trip to the UN climate summit due to illness.

Pope Francis has urged leaders at COP28 to ensure the UN climate talks are a "turning point" in the fight against the climate crisis.

The Pope called in his message for governments at the summit in the United Arab Emirates to put the global common good ahead of national interests.

The Holy Father's message was read by Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican's Secretary of State, after illness forced the Pope to cancel his visit.

Pope appeals for leaders to show leadership at COP28

Pope Francis’s message placed responsibility for tackling the climate crisis on political leaders, reminding governments gathered at the COP that “the purpose of power is to serve” and that it is “useless to cling to an authority that will one day be remembered for its inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so”.

The Pope warned that the destruction of the environment “is an offence against God” endangering all human beings, “especially the most vulnerable in our midst”.

The message reiterated a call made by Pope Francis in Laudate Deum, a document published in the run-up to COP28, for leaders at the climate talks to commit to the “elimination of fossil fuels” and to make pledges that are “obligatory and readily monitored”.

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COP28 ends with agreement to 'transition away from fossil fuels'

The UN COP28 climate summit has ended with nearly 200 governments agreeing a call for the world to “transition away from fossil fuels”.

The agreement marks the first time all governments have formally acknowledged the world must move away from fossil fuels.

The poor are the real victims of what is happening: we need think only of the plight of indigenous peoples, deforestation, the tragedies of hunger, water and food insecurity, and forced migration

Pope Francis

Pope: war ‘devastates our common home’

Pope Francis also used the address to the COP to call for an end to war in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as in Ukraine.

The Pope declared that “conflicts will not solve problems but only increase them” and argued that resources spent on weaponry “that destroys lives and devastates our common home” should be used to fight hunger and climate change.

What needs to happen at COP28?

As one of the largest historic emitters of the greenhouse gases driving the climate crisis, we’re calling for the UK government to play its part by taking action on three fronts:

  1. Push for the world to consign fossil fuels to history in order to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C. Staying below this limit can only be achieved by stopping all new oil, coal and gas projects and rapidly phasing out existing production.

  2. Fund the loss and damage fund with new money from grants, rather than loans which will only exacerbate the debt crisis faced by low-income countries. Governments at COP27 agreed to set up this fund to support countries suffering from the impacts of climate catastrophes.

  3. Support small-scale farmers who are growing food in ways that protect nature rather than harm it. The government must channel financial and technical support towards small-scale farmers and away from big agricultural companies that are damaging the environment.

To all of you I make this heartfelt appeal: Let us choose life! Let us choose the future! 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!

Pope Francis

Leaders at COP28 must 'heed Pope's call'

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD, said:

“Pope Francis delivered a clear, urgent message aimed squarely at those causing the climate crisis and with the money to make a difference.

“He highlighted the large footprint of a few nations who’ve caused this crisis and what those nations now owe to the poorest communities who are suffering under heavy debts incurred by responding to the climate crisis. He also called on the money squandered on weapons to be spent on the poorest communities and climate action.

“The Pope's message is very well timed as we move into discussions on a global stocktake. These discussions must be a time for leaders to heed his call: not for a partial change, but a new way of making progress together, and for choosing a culture of life over a culture of death.

“Pope Francis has been outspoken in recognising it is the world’s poorest who have been hit hardest by the climate crisis. At CAFOD we work with communities who have paid the ultimate price due to extreme weather patterns – losing homes, jobs and members of their own families. The establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund is a start which must push us forward to provide the necessary long-term funding to support affected communities.”