In just over two weeks, political leaders, representatives and thousands of negotiators, businesspeople, and regular citizens from nearly all the nations of the world will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, referred to as COP26. Many experts say that this conference is the last chance for governments around the world to agree on plans to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, including the important target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
If they fail to do so, these goals are unlikely to be reached and we risk that human-induced climate change becomes unstoppable, a reality that has a firm consensus among the overwhelming majority of researchers in this field.
In the lead-up to this important gathering, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, together with the Diocese of Parramatta, has decided to lend its voice to the issue of tackling climate change. We are urging our Federal Government to take bold climate action by 2030 and finally commit to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Australian states and territories have already done so, and it is time for Australia as a nation to stop lagging behind our international partners.
The Cathedral Parish has erected a promotional banner on a perimeter fence with the hope that people seeing it will associate our strong Catholic tradition of social justice with an issue that will have a worldwide impact, most particularly on the poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. The banner reads: “Scott Morrison – Bold Climate Action by 2030 Starting Now – Diocese of Parramatta Laudato Si’ Action Campaign”.
This coming Sunday, October 17, we will ring the cathedral’s bells at 10am to draw people’s attention to the banner. This date marks a “Global Day of Action” under the theme “Faiths 4 Climate Justice”. We have been invited to participate in this action day by ARRCC, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. Just across the road, the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta will be joining the global “Faiths 4 Climate Justice” day with a similar action.
Our action at St Patrick’s Cathedral links in with the Diocese of Parramatta’s commitment to embarking on a seven-year journey towards more sustainability and care for creation, which all Catholics have been invited to by Pope Francis and the Australian Bishops Conference.
The Catholic Church has been one of the most unrelenting voices on the issue of climate change, especially in recent years under Pope Francis.
His 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home has been a key document within and beyond the Church in considering how we tackle the issue of climate change and how we can care for creation, our common home. The Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which was launched in May this year, outlines a seven-year journey to implement the key goals of this encyclical. The Australian Catholic Bishops have taken up these seven Laudato Si’ Goals in their new Social Justice Statement Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor. The Bishops invite the entire Catholic community in Australia to join them and Pope Francis on the seven-year journey towards greater care for creation and sustainability.
To this end, the Diocese of Parramatta is committed to developing a Laudato Si’ Action Plan. Catholic parishes, schools, families and organisations in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains are invited to pledge their commitment, too. This can be done on the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
Fighting climate change is a crucial part of such a commitment. Bishop Vincent Long explains, “We as the Catholic community have a critical role in helping our nation to be a responsible global citizen in fighting climate change. We cannot claim to be a responsible global citizen while we lag behind other nations on climate action.”
Several months ago, US Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago remarked at a conference on Laudato Si’, “What does the Pope’s challenging message mean for a Christian community that professes a commitment to promoting a culture of life, yet acts with indifference to the call to make the sacrifices needed to protect this common home God has entrusted to us?”
Indeed. Let us pray and hope that our campaign reaches the ears and hearts of those who have the power to make decisions for our planet’s future. You can also reach out to our Australian and international leaders who will attend the COP26 Climate Change Conference by signing the Catholic “Healthy Planet, Healthy People Petition” at thecatholicpetition.org.
The COP26 conference will run from 31 October to 12 November and is hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy. Pope Francis was originally scheduled to attend the conference but has indicated recently that he will not be able to come, sending instead the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, regarded as the most senior position in the Vatican below the Pope.
Details of the COP26 program can be found on the conference website.
Fr Robert Riedling is the Dean and Administrator of St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish.
Sebastian Salaske-Lentern is the Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator for the Diocese of Parramatta.