Catholic Bishops Call for an End to Fossil Fuel Era


Originally posted on EdenKeeper

Last week, Catholic bishops from around the world added their voice to other faith groups urging climate action and issued a call to the negotiators at the United Nations climate talks in Lima. Their call: protect the poor by putting an end to the fossil fuel era. According to the BBC News, the bishops’ statement is the first time that senior church figures from every continent have issued such a call.

“We recognize that much good has happened on Earth through the rightful and responsibile intelligence, technology and industry of humankind under God’s loving care,” wrote the bishops. “And yet in recent decades many grave adversities such as climate change, with its devastating impact on Nature itself, on food security, health and migration, led to a great number of suffering people worldwide.”

The fault, they say, lies with our global economic system — a human creation. Our economy’s focus on profit and the primacy of the market fails to put human beings and the common good at the center of the world’s concerns. When faced with a moral and ethical dilemma, like climate change, it becomes even more evident that we must all recognize the “systemic failures of this order and the need for a new financial and economic order.”

The bishops didn’t just ask UN negotiators to adopt a global agreement in Paris in 2015, they challenged world leaders to really do something for the planet by keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. This is a considerably more ambitious goal than the 2 degrees Celsius ceiling that most agree is the threshold beyond which climate change becomes truly dangerous. But the stricter standard is necessary to “protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change, such as those in the Pacific Islands and in the coastal regions.”

To create a new economic order and meet global temperature increase goals, the bishops call for “an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100% renewables with sustainable energy access for all.” Yes, the bishops are calling for a war on coal.

While phase out of fossil fuel emissions may seem like a tall order, the goal of reducing carbon emissions to zero is already making the rounds in Lima, with dozens of governments voicing their support according to the Associate Press. Religious groups have also made the push towards carbon neutrality. And divesting from fossil fuels, a means of shifting the financial and economic order, is becoming an increasingly popular move among faith organizations, seminariesschools, and big investors.

With 1.2 billion people worldwide calling themselves Catholic, the bishops’ statement has the potential to further influence public debate, if not actual action, on the issue.

It would be nice to see the Catholic church walking the walk though too. Despite letters and petitions to Pope Francis to divest, the Catholic church still has yet to make a formal announcement regarding its investment in fossil fuel companies. If the bishops are serious about changing the financial order and protecting the poor, leading by example is always a great first step.

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Image: Doug88888 / Flickr

Robyn Purchia

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, field work, and most recently writing. Be inspired to connect your spirit to environmentalism on my site Eden Keeper. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .