Delivered at the “Faith and the Future webinar: Empowering Environmental Stewardship through the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty” Webinar, 12 October 2023, organized by Laudato Si’ Movement.
As Catholic communities in Africa, we ask the leaders at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to recognise their moral duty and commit to urgently taking ambitious action to protect Our Common Home and the most vulnerable.
As was recently highlighted in the African Faith Leaders Nairobi Declaration, the continent possesses both the potential and the ambition to be a vital component of the global solution to climate change. It is home to the world’s youngest and fastest-growing workforce, coupled with massive untapped renewable energy potential, abundant natural assets and entrepreneurial spirit, our continent has the fundamentals to pioneer a climate-positive pathway as a thriving, cost-competitive industrial hub with the capacity to support other regions in achieving their climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
Africa is experiencing exacerbated climate change and biodiversity impacts with health and security already at risk due to extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels, and other climate change-induced challenges. It is evident as starkly stated in the 6th Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that the world is not on track to keeping within the 1.5°C limit agreed upon in Paris and that global emissions must be cut by 45% in this decade.
We welcome and celebrate Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, Laudate Deum, which illustrates the global social issues of climate change and echoes the sad reality of climate change impacts. As the Pope notes: “It is not possible to conceal the correlation between these global climate phenomena and the accelerated increase in greenhouse gas emissions.” (LD, no. 13)
Pope Francis further urges: “We must move beyond the mentality of appearing to be concerned but not having the courage needed to produce substantial changes. We know that at this pace in just a few years, we will surpass the maximum recommended limit of 1.5° C and shortly thereafter even reach 3° C, with a high risk of arriving at a critical point. Even if we do not reach this point of no return, it is certain that the consequences would be disastrous and precipitous measures would have to be taken, at enormous cost and with grave and intolerable economic and social effects. Although the measures that we can take now are costly, the cost will be all the more burdensome the longer we wait.” (LD, no. 56)
In line with this year’s COP28 theme; health, recovery and peace, we call on the leaders to ensure that they listen to the plight of the earth and of the most vulnerable by phasing out fossil fuels, and endorsing and adopting the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. We call on them to tackle both climate change and biodiversity loss together as they are inextricably linked. Biodiversity is collapsing in front of our very eyes, with disastrous consequences for us all and future generations. We need to protect Africa and the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular, must be uplifted, as they are the best guardians of our common home.
We are reminded that economic policies must prioritize efforts to accelerate emission reductions through just transition processes and operationalize the loss and damage fund ensuring that they are aligned with the bold goal to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C.
Pope Francis invites us to join him in “this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful because that commitment has to do with our personal dignity and highest values”, and he also exhorts us “to be honest and recognize that the most effective solutions will not come from individual efforts alone, but above all from major political decisions on the national and international level.” (LD, no. 69)
May God bless the deliberations and may they be ambitiously fruitful.
Fr Jean Germain RAJOELISON
Deputy Secretary General of SECAM and Coordinator of SECAM Justice, Peace and Development