To President Biden and Climate Envoy Kerry,

We, members of the U.S. Advocacy Working Group of the Laudato Si’ Movement (LSM), share a common Catholic tradition with both of you. Our work–rooted in the Gospels, Catholic Social Teaching, Pope Francis’ encyclicals, and teachings of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI–calls us in faith to protect our common home and all life. Since our founding eight years ago, we at LSM have been addressing global environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and the climate emergency. These interconnected crises are rapidly intensifying–and so is the urgency to increase ambition with action at COP28. We express this urgency in two main areas:

  1. The outsized power of fossil fuel companies participating at COPs
  2. The increased need for funding to protect the most vulnerable and support those most harmed, particularly as they are least responsible for the climate crisis

The United States under your administration has made significant advances in addressing climate change, with legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Justice40 Initiative; we thank you for this leadership. Regrettably, however, after more than 50 years of findings from the scientific and environmental community which call for immediate, bold action to address climate change and protect all people from the effects of planetary degradation, the U.S. response is still insufficient for the extremity of these now-imminent crises. The moral and environmental choices have long been clear, yet the lack of prudent government action is neither right nor just. The U.S. lack of action has outsized detrimental impacts on the entire planet.

This fact impelled Pope Francis to name explicitly the United States in his most recent exhortation on the state of the planet, Laudate Deum (LD). “Emissions per capita in the United States are about… seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries,” higher than any other (LD, 72). The U.S. has also contributed the most to accumulated (historic) fossil fuel
emissions. Our nation is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world, and production has significantly risen over the last decade. The government provides $20 billion of annual subsidies to fossil fuel companies. After so many years of such profligate overconsumption, “the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point” (LD, 2).

In this 28th year of negotiations, well-resourced and powerful countries, including the United States, must take a decisive stand to protect all life. We have no time to squander; scientists now predict a 66% probability of passing the 1.5°C threshold (the limit agreed to by nations at COP21, beyond which all life will struggle to adapt and survive), by 2027.

Pope Francis argues that the necessary response to the climate crisis is hindered by officials choosing short-term growth and politics oriented towards immediate results. This “myopia of power politics” cannot lead towards the global common good. True statecraft can only be manifest “when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good” (Laudato Si, 178).

Your influence is vital for a realignment of our national priorities and a transition off of fossil fuels. We must be willing to model changes within our own country in order to negotiate for similar changes globally. “What is being asked of us is nothing other than a certain responsibility for the legacy we will leave behind” (LD, 18).

We, therefore, as the Laudato Si’ Movement Advocacy Working Group from across our nation, respectfully ask that at COP28 negotiations, you commit the U.S. to the following:

  1. End 100% of government subsidies to all fossil fuel companies, preferably no later than the start of COP29.
  2. End new fossil fuel exploration and expansion on all U.S. land and water (federally owned and otherwise), taking concrete steps immediately upon the conclusion of COP 28. Prioritize a just transition towards a green economy.
  3. Negotiate an end to the financial and lobbying influence of fossil fuel companies and related industries in COP proceedings and decision-making processes. The UNFCCC was established as a democratic process, wherein member nation states seek common agreement and act together to limit dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. This goal of ensuring a viable future has been co-opted by the fossil fuel industry’s disproportionate presence, which has increased every year such that last year’s COP27 welcomed over 1000 delegates representing fossil-fuel corporate interests–from the United Arab Emirates alone. This was greater representation than that of the eight countries around the world most impacted by climate change combined. This decidedly undemocratic tipping of scales means the voices of those most harmed are drowned out by the clamor of corporations prioritizing profit over people.
  4. Increase support to those harmed most by worsening climate change disasters. The Loss and Damage Fund, established at COP 27, must be predictable, coherent, easily accessible, efficient, effective, and financed. The U.S. has fallen far short in our financial commitments made at previous COPs; now, this must become a failure only of the past, not also of the future.

“With an eye to the children who will pay for the harm done by [our] actions”–or inactions–we would like the next generation to be able to remember you, the leaders at this COP, as ones who did everything possible to lead the world out of the climate crisis (LD 33). This will require facing the climate crisis with the urgency it demands, for the sake of all people and the entire planet. We are prepared to work with you and your administration. During this negotiation process, and afterwards during the successful implementation of these agreements, may our Creator God guide you with strength, courage, and wisdom.

Most respectfully,

Laudato Si’ Movement U.S. Advocacy Working Group