Home Commentary Catholic Actors in global discussions on ecology and climate justice

Catholic Actors in global discussions on ecology and climate justice

To discern possible engagements as a faith-based group in global discussions on ecology and climate justice, Ecojesuit joined an informal gathering of Catholic actors from non-government organizations during COP28 that recognized the vital role of faith voices in affirming the moral imperative of climate justice.

The Catholic Church is increasingly recognizing the importance of engaging in such spaces. The Vatican State is an official Party representative in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and the delegation led by the Apostolic Nuncio emphasized in the climate negotiations the important role of education as a cross-cutting theme in the ecological mission.

During the World Climate Action Summit in COP28 on 2 December 2023, Pope Francis addressed world leaders (in a message delivered by Cardinal Pietro Parolin) and assured them of the commitment and support of the Catholic Church that is “deeply engaged in the work of education and of encouraging participation by all, as well as in promoting sound lifestyles.”

The group is informally called Catholic Actors and held a webinar on 19 December 2023 to share key outcomes of COP28 and reflections from the youth, lay Catholic women, and members of the clergy. The group collectively agreed to collaborate and act for the climate justice mission.

Allen Ottaro, Founder and Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) echoed the call of Laudato Si’: “The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still can work together in building our common home.” (LS 13)

The Catholic Actors reconvened in early 2024 to sustain the momentum built in Dubai and take the engagement further. The fundamental question of identity was raised, and the group decided to proceed as a network of Catholic organizations engaging in environmental policies at the UN level and guided by the principles of integral ecology (in the context of listening to the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth).

A critical point raised was the importance of finding ways to engage nationally, especially now that countries are preparing for the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

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The Catholic Actors has members from different regions and local contexts who bring their experiences in agroecology, loss and damage, climate finance, just transition, and NDC engagement.

Working groups will be formed around these themes to draw in local and regional experiences and explore how these can be connected with UNFCCC processes such as the intersessional meetings before COP29 (i.e. Bonn Climate Change Conference 2024 and the regional climate weeks).

The next COPs will be critical as COP29 in Azerbaijan is focused on the Newly Quantified Goal on Climate Finance and COP30 in Brazil is focused on the NDCs. COP31 (possibly in Oceania) will be the most critical, as it will be the 10th year since the Paris Agreement was ratified. Most Heads of State will once more sign a legally binding international treaty.

The path ahead is a challenge, and while there are still a number of uncertainties in how the Catholic Actors will proceed as a network, the group’s willingness to act is a source of hope and faith and can be a critical influence in the social process in global discussions on ecology and climate justice.

This article was reprinted with modifications from the original article published in climatejustice.ecojesuit.com

Fr. Pedro Walpole, S.J. works in sustainable environment and community land management in Southeast Asia, with mainly local communities, universities, international organizations, and governments. He practices a people-focused approach to capacity building and seeks to promote more lasting partnerships through research, consultation, and policy building to support local populations and governments. He is the Global Coordinator for Ecojesuit, Research Director for the Environmental Science for Social Change, and the Coordinator for the River Above Asia Oceania Ecclesial Network. 

Pedro also directs the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center, an upland basic education program and technical training for indigenous children in northern Mindanao that has its own culture-based curriculum and promotes multi-language education and the use of the mother tongue. He continues to live with the Pulangiyēn, an upland indigenous community in Mindanao.

Criselle Mejillano is the Networking Coordinator at Environmental Science for Social Change, Inc. (ESSC). It is a Jesuit research and training institute that promotes environmental sustainability and social justice through the integration of scientific methodologies and social processes and that networks across the Asia Pacific region in moving an agenda of science for sustainability.

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