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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Pope to EU environment ministers: it is time to honour our ecological debt

Vatican City, 16 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning, before the Wednesday general audience, the Pope received the environment ministers of the European Union who will soon face two important events: the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the COP 21 in Paris. Francis remarked that their mission is increasingly important since the environment is a “collective good, a patrimony for all humanity, and the responsibility of each one of us – a responsibility that can only be transversal and which requires effective collaboration within the entire international community”.

He went on to suggest to the ministers three principles which should inspire their work, starting with the principle of solidarity. “A word that is sometimes forgotten, and at other times abused in a sterile fashion. We know that the people most vulnerable to environmental degradation are the poor, who suffer the most serious consequences. Solidarity therefore means creating effective tools able to unite the fight against environmental degradation with the struggle against poverty. Many positive experiences exist in this area, such as the development and transfer of appropriate technologies able to make the best use of human, natural and socio-economic resources, rendering them more accessible at local level, so as to guarantee sustainability also in the long term”.

Secondly, there is the principle of justice. “In the encyclical 'Laudato si'' I spoke about our ecological debt, especially between the North and the South, linked to commercial imbalances with consequences in the environmental sphere, such as the disproportionate use of natural resources historically made by some countries. We must honour that debt. These latter are required to contribute to settling the debt by offering a good example, substantially limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy, contributing resources to countries in need to promote policies and programmes of sustainable development, adopting suitable systems for managing forests, transport and refuse, and facing the serious problem of food waste, promoting a circular model for the economy and encouraging new attitudes and lifestyles”.

Thirdly, there is the principle of participation, which “requires the involvement of all the parties involved, including those who often remain marginal to decision-making processes. Indeed, we live in a very interesting historical moment: on the one hand, science and technology place unprecedented power in our hands, whereas on the other, the correct use of such power presupposes the adoption of a more integral and integrating vision. This requires us to open the doors to dialogue, a dialogue inspired by a vision rooted in that integral ecology that is the subject of 'Laudato si''. This is obviously a great cultural, spirital and educational challenge: solidarity, justice and participation respecting our dignity and respecting creation”.

The Pope concluded by encouraging the ministers in their work, emphasising that both he and the Holy See would guarantee their support “to adequately respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.

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