2015 saw the publication of Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home”, which reflected on the climate crisis, environmental degradation, and resulting socioeconomic injustices. He called on all peoples to take “swift and unified global action” to address these issues, aligned with the growing calls of the global environmental movement for the kind of development that is ecologically-responsible and respectful of the dignity of all life on Earth.
Yet in the past eight years, the narrative has remained largely the same: ‘what has been done’ is nowhere near enough. While global climate action has made some progress, it continues to lag way behind the rate of climate change itself. Billions around the world have experienced extreme impacts, ranging from strong typhoons and high flooding to scorching heat waves and intense droughts. Each and every time, the Pope’s words rang true: “the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest”.
Among the biggest culprits for the slow progress of climate action is the lack of shift in attitudes and cultures on how to regard our environment, especially among policymakers and businesses. Even with another crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, giving our world a taste of the future that higher global temperatures can bring, much of the “business-as-usual” practices and systems have remained dominant from the multilateral level to what we see in our daily lives. Many of these leaders also refuse to listen to the cries of the earth and the poor that keep getting louder and louder with each passing day.
In recognition of the growing urgency of addressing the climate emergency and avoiding the worst-case scenario, Pope Francis will release on 4 October the Apostolic Exhortation, “Laudate Deum” (Latin: “Praise God”). Intended as a follow-up to the Laudato Si’, it also coincides with the conclusion of the 2023 Season of Creation, with the theme “Let Justice and Peace Flow” that echoes the need for an inclusive, fair, and just transformation of our world through less-pollutive and more ecologically-sustainable modes of development.
‘What needs to be done’ is for leaders in the public and private sectors to stop making excuses and largely favoring the interests of those already with too much, at the expense of literally everything and everyone else. Whether you listen to science, faith, or economics, they all say the same exact message: the current “business-as-usual” culture, marked by fossil fuels, pollution, prioritization of profit over people and planet, and more, will simply lead to catastrophes which any amount of neither money nor power would stop.
‘What needs to be done’ is an urgent yet just transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, a necessity to avoid further global warming and for the most vulnerable countries such as the Philippines to have more time to adapt to the changing world. We are all stakeholders in dealing with this problem. We all have the right to participate in processes deciding how to act on this issue. No one must be left behind in this transition.
‘What needs to be done’ is for the biggest polluters to be held accountable for their role in causing this crisis, including through reparations for the most vulnerable communities that had to endure the worst of the climate-related loss and damage (L&D). This takes on an even greater significance for the Philippines, which experienced the wrath of super-typhoon Haiyan nearly ten years ago and changed how Filipinos and the rest of the world view L&D as an issue.
‘What needs to be done’ is for the Holy See to properly represent the 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide at the upcoming UN climate summit (COP28) in Dubai, UAE by taking an assertive and influential role in the negotiations and making positions that reflect the needs and calls of its constituency, especially the most vulnerable communities. Other Catholic delegates to COP28 should also provide their support and expertise to the Holy See delegation in accomplishing this goal, drawing from their various backgrounds and experiences implementing solutions on the ground.
Living Laudato Si’ Philippines (LLS) makes these calls as part of our continuing mission to respond to the emerging challenges brought by the climate crisis, anchored on the wisdom of Pope Francis and our vision for a future marked by ecological sustainability.