Faith groups meet Hollande, present requests for fair climate agreement

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michel Euler, pool via EPA

By James Martone

PARIS (CNS) — Faith-based
groups presented French President Francois Hollande with 1.8 million signatures
of people seeking a fair climate change agreement that would stop global
warming and protect the poor, reported religious groups in Paris for the U.N. climate
change conference.

The petitions were in the form
of hundreds of thousands of signatures and messages, presented by a group of
religious leaders to Hollande in a private ceremony at his presidential palace,
the faith-based groups said.

“Today the messages of over
900,000 Catholics calling for climate justice were delivered to President
Francois Hollande in coalition with other faith-based groups. In total, the
faith-based networks of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, ACT Alliance,
Religions for Peace and Our Voices delivered 1,833,973 signatures at the
special reception held at the Presidential Palace in Paris,” said a
statement from the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

At the ceremony, Hollande
thanked the religious groups. “We must protect the planet … through the
petitions, through the walks and pilgrimages, you have committed to defend
life,” the statement quoted the French president as saying.

It added that Auxiliary Bishop
Leonardo Steiner of Brasilia, secretary-general of the Brazilian bishops’ conference,
told Hollande that “as people of faith, we are extremely pleased to meet
you today to deliver these petition signatures and demand climate justice. We
are extremely concerned about the climate crisis. But we know that all is not

He quoted from Pope Francis’
June encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,”: “Human
beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above
themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”

The petitions were originally
presented Nov. 28 to the U.N.’s top climate official, Christiana Figueres, and
to Hollande’s special envoy for the protection of the planet, Nicolas Hulot.

France has been hosting the U.N.
summit in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget since Nov. 30. Last-minute disputes among
negotiators appeared to have extended the Dec. 11 deadline for a climate
agreement, French media reported.

Thousands of climate activists,
many of them faith-based, were in Paris for the two-week conference, in hopes
of swaying negotiators from the 195 participating countries to produce an
accord that curbs global warming but includes safeguards and compensation for
the world’s poorer developing nations.

Some of the most divisive issues
discussed at the summit, known as COP21, have revolved around the extent to
which poor countries should be compensated for climate change damage already
incurred, and for them to be able to adapt to cleaner forms of energy. The rights
of indigenous and other peoples who might suffer under “greener”
technologies of any new accord have been a sticking point of the negotiations
as well, as has the issue of what limits the accord should set on world

Yeb Sano, an activist and former
climate negotiator for the Philippines, told the French president at the palace
ceremony that he and other pilgrims had journeyed thousands of miles to carry “the
message of climate justice and our solidarity as one human family,” in
order “to express faith communities’ deep sense of urgency regarding the
climate crisis.”

“Altogether we journeyed
the distance of close to 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles), including a group
that I personally joined from the Vatican to Paris. We also cycled over 7,000 kilometers
from Mozambique to Kenya, pushing the climate justice flag high and collecting
thousands of signatures on the way,” an ACT Alliance press statement
quoted Sano as saying.

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