The Religious Consultation
on Population, Reproductive Health  and Ethics
 


 revisiting the world's sacred traditions


April 26-27, 2007

Pontifical Council on Climate Change and Development

By Thalif Deen

Vatican City, Rome

Report by Martin Robra

1. Introduction

Inaugurating the seminar, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, expressed his wish for "a
fruitful exchange of experiences, in a climate of serenity and
composure, and an in-depth dialogue and disinterested research." He
emphasized the necessary balance between environmental education and
the development of people in need. Humanity's dominion over creation
must not be despotic or irresponsible according to the Cardinal.

Cardinal Martino read a telegram signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,
Vatican Secretary of State. In this telegram, Pope Benedict XVI urged
everyone to adopt "a way of living, models of production and
consumption marked by respect for creation and the need for
sustainable development of peoples, keeping in mind the universal
distribution of goods, as is so often mentioned in the Church's
social doctrine." He expressed "sincere appreciation" for this
meeting, which will study the "problems relating to the environment,
ethics, economics and the political and social life with
repercussions for the weakest members of society."

2. Calls to respond to the challenge of climate change by government
representatives

Following the French Ambassador for the Environment, Mr. Laurent
Steffanini, who spoke on the history of the debate on climate change,
the UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
R. Hon. David Miliband, MP, underlined that climate change must be
tackled through a coalition grounded in morality and ethics. There
needed to be a worldwide "ecological conversion", a mobilization of
governments, businesses and citizens, and a need to change the way
people live, work and travel. Efforts to mitigate climate change
require a sense of solidarity with the developing world and future
generations. The UK Secretary of State called for 2007 to be the year
when the international community injects new momentum into the
development of an international framework that can follow the end of
the first Kyoto commitment period in 2012: "The truth is that without
global confidence in the commitment of governments to put a price on
carbon, to agree a set of long-term commitments for long-term
emissions reduction ... businesses or citizens will not have the
drive and the critical mass to arrest the growth of greenhouse
gases." The UK had successfully broken the link between economic
growth and pollution growth, he said. "Our economy as a whole has
grown by over 25% since 1997, but our greenhouse gas emissions have
been cut by 8%," he observed.

3. Scientific presentations

Professor Stefan Rahmstorf of the Postdam Institute for Climate
Impact Research introduced the basis of climate science and results
presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC),
which have recently received wide attention by the media and the
public. He was the only scientist invited who had contributed to the
IPCC report which involves about 2500 scientists in a very
transparent and publicly accountable process.

The Italian nuclear physicist Professor Antonino Zichichi followed as
the first in a series of presentations by "climate skeptics" with, at
times, strong attacks on the IPCC. "Climate skeptics" were very well
represented in this conference. Prof. Zichichi stressed the
complexity of climate change and questioned the scientific standards
of climate science. According to him, climate modeling is not sound
science. Fred Singer (USA), who previously had links to the tobacco
and oil industries, raised doubt concerning the empirical basis of
climate research. Dr. Craig Idso (US) praised the benefits of carbon
dioxide for the growth of plants, which could contribute to respond
to hunger and the pressures of population growth. Professor Claudio
Rafanelli presented various options re energy production, while also
rejecting some of the insights of the IPCC.

Two other contributions the following day by Italian participants who
were not listed on the programme showed a similar emphasis.

4. Climate Change and Politics

The Polish Minister of the Environment, Hon. Mr. Jan Syszko, focused
on sustainable development and the role of forests as carbon sinks.
The Argentinian Ambassador, Raul Estrada Oyuela, who is known as the
diplomat who led the negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol through many
of its difficulties to its conclusion, presented an analysis of the
climate change negotiations and the options pursued at present. His
paper is very useful for those engaged in reflections and action
concerning the post 2012 framework of climate change negotiations. He
pointed to the need for a precise assessment of the first commitment
period of the Kyoto Protocol which might require the acceptance of a
gap regarding the regulative framework. European countries insist on
avoiding such a gap in order to ensure continuity of emission trading
schemes. Ambassador Estrada, however, criticized their approach to
emission trading as flawed, showing no encouraging results.

5. A single voice of people affected

Ms Sharon Looremeta, a Masaai women from Kenya, was the only voice
from one of the communities that is already now effected by the
consequences of climate change in severe ways. Her call for a clearly
committed engagement of civil society - including churches and other
faith communities - was strongly attacked by some of the "climate
skeptics" as an unfounded plea for aid. Her presentation resonated
well with a contribution made by Archbishop Paul Ruzoka from Tanzania
that he shared during the discussion in an earlier session.

6. Theological perspectives

Dr. Calvin Beissner (US) argued along the lines of Dr. Idso and Prof.
Singer but framed his contribution theologically. His approach was
strongly questioned by theologians around the table for an
insufficient exegetical and systematic basis.

The quality of theological and ecumenical presentations that were
presented by Bishop Dr. Bernd Uhl (Germany), Lic. Elias Abramides
(Argentina-speaking for the World Council of Churches), the Anglican
Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones (England), and the Australian Bishop
Christopher Toohey rescued the conference that was in clear danger of
being side tracked by the debate on climate science as promoted by
climate skeptics.

Bishop Uhl stated: "Climate change is one of the signs of the times
affecting the Catholic Church as a global organization. The Catholic
Church must take a stand on this present-day and urgent question." He
carefully examined the sources of the social doctrine of the Roman
Catholic church and recent statements of relevance to the debate by
the Pope, but also by National Catholic bishops conferences in some
countries, including the United States and Australia. He urged that
the time had come for an encyclical, the highest form of papal
writing, on "the future of creation." Such an encyclical would
"energize" Catholics, other believers and world opinion on climate
change and the environment as a whole. Bishop Toohey complemented his
statement adding insights gained on his life-journey and in his
pastoral ministry in draught stricken Australia.

It was mentioned that Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to speak to
Italian youth on September 1, 2007 (Creation Day) and that this would
be one of the opportunities for the Pope to address climate change.
Cardinal Martino also shared the information that the Pope is
considering addressing climate change and its devastating
consequences during the visit by George W. Bush, in June immediately
after the G8 meeting in Germany.

Elias Abramides stressed that climate change was a "deeply spiritual
issue". "We believe that the solutions to the problem will not only
be of a political, technological and economic nature`As Christians
... we need to recognize and accept the intimate ethical and deeply
religious implications of climate change. It is a matter of justice,
it is a matter of equity, and it is a matter of love: love for God
the Almighty, love for the neighbor, love for creation." He shared
detailed information on the work of the World Council of Churches'
climate change programme.

Bishop James Jones not only made a rhetorically impressive and
exegetically reflective presentation on the necessity for the
churches to act on climate change (adding inspiring examples from his
diocese), but also called on the Roman Catholic church and Pope
Benedict XVI to speak publicly on climate change as an ethical
challenge to Christians and people of faith together with other
church leaders, e.g. the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of
Canterbury.

The meeting was closed with a statement by Cardinal Martino saying
that climate change is a reality, but a complex one that requires
more scientific study. In engaging with climate change as a moral
issue the Roman Catholic church could build on its very well
developed social teaching. Compared to this cautious statement at the
end of the seminar, the Cardinal made some more pronounced comments to
the press. It was the sincere hope of many of the participants,
especially the bishops and government representatives who spoke, that
the Vatican would clearly focus on the ethical and moral challenges
posed by climate change in a clear and strong way - hopefully not
alone, but together with other churches that have taken a lead on the
issue for several years.

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UNEP Articles Related to the Study Seminar on Climate Change

April 27, 2007

Pope Should Talk Climate Change With Bush  Cardinal

VATICAN CITY - A senior adviser to Pope Benedict said on Thursday he
believes the Pontiff should raise the dangers of climate change and
global warming with US President George W. Bush when the two meet in
June.

Cardinal Renato Martino told reporters on the sidelines of a
Vatican-sponsored scientific conference on climate change that
religious leaders around the world should remind members of their
flocks that wilfully damaging the environment is sinful.

Bush is due to meet Benedict at the Vatican in June while the US
president is in Europe for a Group of Eight (G8) summit when Germany,
the current G8 president, wants to forge an international agreement on
combating climate change.

"It's not for me to say what the Pope and President Bush should
discuss but certainly they will discuss current issues and therefore
I imagine and I hope they will (discuss climate change)," Martino
said.

"It certainly merits it," said Martino, who, as head of the Vatican's
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is the Pope's point man for
social issues such as the environment.

The Bush administration, which did not sign up to the Kyoto Protocol
on Climate change, has long been reluctant to curb the greenhouse
gases blamed for swelling sea levels and causing droughts as well as
floods.

Bush pulled out of the treaty, which Washington had signed under the
previous, Democratic, administration, saying it would damage the
economy and was unfair as it did not require rapidly developing
nations like China and India to stem emissions.

In a message to conference participants, including British
Environment Secretary David Miliband, the Pope said he hoped studies
could lead to "lifestyles and production and consumer methods that
aim to respect creation and (aim for) sustainable progress".

In recent years, the world's major religions have gone green in the
race to save the planet.

Asked if wilful damage of the environment is a sin, Martino said:
"Yes, because not using the environment correctly is an offence not
only against yourself but against all others who make use of the
environment."

He said all religious groups should be involved in environmental
causes and raise awareness about global warming.

"We have to start at the level of elementary schools, to make sure
children are taught to respect nature and be aware of the problems of
the world. We can't wait until they are older. This has to be done
naturally in religion classes, in religious groups everywhere,"
Martino said.

Story by Philip Pullella

Reuters: Story Date: 27/4/2007

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Protect God's creation: Vatican issues new green message for world's Catholics

· Pope addresses climate change conference

· US church leaders lobby Bush on global warming

John Vidal and Tom Kington in Rome

Friday April 27, 2007

Guardian

The Vatican yesterday added its voice to a rising chorus of warnings
from churches around the world that climate change and abuse of the
environment is against God's will, and that the one billion-strong
Catholic church must become far greener.

At a Vatican conference on climate change, Pope Benedict urged
bishops, scientists and politicians - including UK environment
secretary David Miliband - to "respect creation" while "focusing on
the needs of sustainable development".

The Pope's message follows a series of increasingly strong statements
about climate change and the environment, including a warning earlier
this year that "disregard for the environment always harms human
coexistence, and vice versa".

Observers said yesterday that the Catholic church is no longer split
between those who advocate development and those who say the
environment is the priority. Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, head
of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, said: "For
environment ... read Creation. The mastery of man over Creation must
not be despotic or senseless. Man must cultivate and safeguard God's
Creation."

According to Vatican sources, the present Pope is far more engaged in
the green debate than John Paul. In the past year Benedict has spoken
strongly on the need to preserve rainforests. In the next few weeks
he visits Brazil.

"There is no longer a schism. The new interest in climate change and
the environment is not surprising really. Benedict comes out of 1960s
Germany, where environment and disarmament were major issues. It's
conceivable that his ministry could even culminate in a papal
encyclical on the environment," said one analyst. This would be the
most powerful signal to the world's Catholics about the need for
environmental awareness at every level.

The Catholic church is just one major faith group now rapidly moving
environment to the fore of its social teachings. "Climate change,
biotechnology, trade justice and pollution are all now being debated
at a far higher level by the world's major religions," said Martin
Palmer, secretary general of the Alliance of Religions and
Conservation (Arc).

In some cases the debate is dividing traditionalists from younger
congregations. In the US the diverse 50m-strong conservative
evangelical churches are increasingly at war about the human
contribution to global warming.

Many evangelical leaders say they are still not convinced that global
warming is human-induced and have argued that the collapse of the
world is inevitable and will herald the second coming of Christ.

But most younger leaders have broken ranks. About four years ago the
progressives began to argue strongly that man had a responsibility to
steward the earth. Redefining environmentalism as "creation care",
they are now lobbying President Bush and the US administration to
take global warming far more seriously.

"They are the most effective lobby," said one observer yesterday.
"They represent the conservative vote so Bush has to listen to them."

Although the World Council of Churches in Geneva has had a department
to investigate climate change since 1990, churches have come late to
the debate. "The is a no-brainer, but we
are all only now realising it", said Claire Foster, environmental
policy adviser to the Church of England.

Many faiths also realise their potential to influence politicians and
financiers. A survey by US bank Citigroup found that the 11 major
faiths now embrace 85% of the world's population and are the world's
third largest group of financial investors. In the US the United
methodist church pension fund alone is worth $12bn-$15bn (£6bn-£7bn).
Total investment of US churches is nearly $70bn. Switching to ethical
investments would be hugely significant.

One Catholic priest impatient for change is Seán McDonagh, a Columban
missionary and author of books on ecology and religion. "The Catholic
church's social teaching on human rights and justice has been good,
but there has been little concern about the impact on the planet. The
church has been caught up on its emphasis on development and on
resisting population control, but if we are pro-life we should be
banging the drum now about climate change."

Backstory

Most of the world's mainstream faiths have at their core a deep
respect for nature, but over hundreds of years many have developed an
ambivalent attitude towards ecology and the pressures put on the earth
by humans. Church leaders have largely stayed silent on the extinction
of species and natural capital and have concentrated their ethical
teachings on the need to relieve human poverty. But the reality of
impending climate change and the effects it will have on the poor is
concentrating minds and causing many to fundamentally reassess their
understanding of man's place in the world.

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April 28, 2007

CINCINNATI CATHOLIC TELEGRAPH

Ohio Catholic Conference faces global warming issues

Vatican ambassador encourages voluntary simplicity to reverse climate
change

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Every Catholic can do something about climate change
by adopting a life of voluntary simplicity, believes the Vatican's
ambassador to the United Nations.

It comes down to "working less, wanting less, spending less," thus
reducing the impact each person has on the environment, Archbishop
Celestino Migliore told the second in a series of regional Catholic
conversations on climate change Saturday.

Citing Genesis' call to humanity to oversee creation and protect it
and the church's social doctrine, the Vatican diplomat outlined the
Holy See's position on the need for Catholics to heed the
environmental dangers facing the planet.

"The denigration of the environment has become an inescapable
reality," the archbishop said.

"There is no doubt that the latest assessment has established a
strong connection between human activity and climate change," he
said, referring to the February statement by Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change.

Archbishop Migliore acknowledged that although not all scientists
agree that climate change is occurring, other environmental threats,
such as indiscriminate deforestation, water pollution, the lack of
potable water in parts of the world and depletion of fish stocks,
demand action from the world community and individual Catholics
alike.

"We need to drink deep from this frustrating foundation of knowledge
and wisdom, known as the aggressive and progressive degradation of
the environment, that has become an inescapable reality," he said.

Archbishop Migliore called God's placing of humans in the Garden of
Eden with the instruction of not only taming nature, but keeping, or
preserving, it as well. God's instruction was not so much a
commandment but a blessing "to perfect, not destroy, the cosmos," he
said.

Any steps to protect the environment must depend on more than the use
of technology and traditional economics but also on "ethical, social
and religious values as well," he said.

Likewise, any corrective steps require turning to people in the
developing world, especially those living in dire poverty, and making
decisions with their advice and consent, the papal nuncio said.

"With humans open to love, creation becomes the place for the mutual
exchange of gifts among people," he said.

The Ohio conference was the second of three gatherings across the
country to address the Catholic response to climate change. The first
was in Florida last month and the third will be June 2 in Anchorage,
Alaska.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is convening representatives
from across a broad swatch of society for a sustained and thoughtful
discussion on climate change. Saturday's 14 conference reflected that
desire, with representatives from utility companies, a consumer group,
environmental organizations, agriculture, higher education, state
government, local parishes and diocesan social action offices on
hand.

Daniel Misleh, executive director of the 10-month-old Catholic
Coalition on Climate Change and a conference planner, said the
bishops are looking to take steps that "make sense" and that are
consistent with Catholic values.

The USCCB is a major supporter of the coalition along with the
Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Relief Services,
Catholic Charities USA, National Council of Catholic Women, National
Catholic Rural Life Conference and Catholic Health Association of the
United States.

"The public policy remedies are very complicated," Misleh said.
"We're more in a mode of learning and listening instead of a mode of
prescribing solutions."

He expects it will be at least six months before the bishops back any
of the climate change bills pending in Congress.

Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat and a United Methodist minister, was
on hand and briefly discussed his goals to reduce energy consumption
throughout state government.

In an interview, Strickland said he has ordered energy audits of all
state buildings with the goal of being an example for local
governments, agencies, school districts and individual homeowners
across the state.

"We can educate and inform people (about what needs to be done). It
will take many small steps by many individuals," Strickland said.

"They're small steps, but if taken in a collective way, they can lead
to significant results," he added. "No one person can take steps that
are going to have a dramatic impact (climate change), but a lot of
raindrops create an ocean."

As the third largest contributor of greenhouse gases in the United
States, Ohio can take a leading role in reducing airborne pollutants
that are said to be the primary cause of climate change, according to
conference planners.

Jim Tobin, associate director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, is
hoping the information that conference delegates obtained will be
spread to parishes throughout the state.

At the same time, Tobin and others stressed the importance of
addressing climate change because of its impact - which is already
being felt - on the world's poor and other vulnerable people. That
concern, repeated throughout Saturday, is rooted in the church's
social teaching.

Marianist Sister Leanne Jablonski, director of the Marinist
Environmental Education Center in Dayton, outlined a broad base of
statistical information, ala Al Gore's Academy Award-winning
documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," on sources of greenhouse gases
and the implications of climate change. She painted a grim picture of
Ohio's role in the climate change scenario.

Facts she offered include:

Since 1750, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has
increased by 37 percent, corresponding to the industrial age.

The United States has less than 4 percent of the world's population
but contributes 25 percent of the worlds' greenhouse gas emissions.

As the country's 11th largest state, Ohio has 4 percent of the U.S.
population but produces 1 percent of the world's greenhouse gases
annually.

Ohio is sixth in the U.S. in energy consumption; third in coal
consumption and fourth in electricity usage.

Despite the grim realities, Sister Jablonski challenged the delegates
to be hopeful while answering the call to care for God's creation.

Hope, she said, can be found in the sacred places of life, places
where God can be found - a favorite garden, a park, a favorite
childhood gathering place. In the same way, she tied sacramental life
to the beauty of the environment - the clear waters of baptism, the
grain and the fields that produces the bread of Eucharist and the
dignity of farmworkers who harvest the grapes for wine.

"We have to live in solidarity, and we have a responsibility to
future generations," she said.

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April 29, 2007

Religion Must Help Protect Planet, Conference Says

VATICAN CITY, 28 April (Reuters) - God wants believers to be green.

That's the message emerging from a Vatican conference on climate
change which was the latest sign of growing concern by religious
groups around the world over the fate of the planet.

Scientists, environment ministers and leaders of various religions
from 20 countries sat down for two days to discuss the implications
of global warming and development.

While the scientists spoke of the dynamics of greenhouse gasses,
temperature patterns, rain forests and exhaust emissions, the men and
women of religion discussed the moral and theological aspects of
protecting the environment.

The conference, organised by the Vatican's Council for Justice and
Peace, marked the most significant plunge to date by the Roman
Catholic Church -- the world's largest Christian grouping -- into one
of the hottest contemporary topics.

"Climate change is one of the signs of the times affecting the
Catholic Church as a global organisation. The Catholic Church must
take a stand on this present-day and urgent question," said Bishop
Bernd Uhl of Freiburg, Germany.

In recent years, the world's major religions have gone more green in
the race to save the planet, which they teach mankind has in
stewardship and must protect for future generations.

Over the past year, some evangelical Protestant churches in the
United States -- strong conservative backers of President George W.
Bush -- have broken ranks with the White House to call for urgent
measures to protect the environment.

National Catholic bishops conferences in some countries, including
the United States and Australia, have issued statements or pastoral
letters on climate change and the need to protect what most religions
see as "the gift of creation".

PAPAL ENCYCLICAL ON GLOBAL WARMING?

Uhl said the time had come for an encyclical, the highest form of
papal writing, on what he called "the future of creation". He said it
would "energize" Catholics, other believers and world opinion on
climate change.

Bishop Christopher Toohey of Australia said believers should "have
the courage and motivation under God's grace to do what we need to do
to safeguard this garden planet".

Elias Abramides, a Greek Orthodox member of the World Council of
Churches (WCC), told the gathering climate change was a "deeply
spiritual issue" rooted in the scriptures.

"We believe that the solutions to the problem will not only be of a
political, technological and economic nature. We believe that ethics
and religion will necessarily become essential components on which
the solutions will be based," he said.

"As Christians ... we need to recognise and accept the intimate
ethical and deeply religious implications of climate change. It is a
matter of justice, it is a matter of equity, and it is a matter of
love: love for God the Almighty, love for the neighbour, love for
creation," Abramides said.

The WCC groups some 550 million Christians from 340 non-Catholic
Christian churches, denominations and fellowships.

Story by Philip Pullella

Story Date: 30/4/2007

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