Category Archives: Climate Change

Cardinal Rodriguez: “Durban climate talks risk moral apartheid”

Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga at Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban delivering his homily on the need for climate justice. Credit: Patrick Nicholson/Caritas

By Patrick Nicholson

Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga says failure at climate talks in Durban is a “moral apartheid” that cannot be allowed to happen.

Just as South Africa’s Apartheid era policies sought divisions along race lines, says Cardinal Rodriguez, today the world’s environment and energy policies divide man from nature.

He said talks under the UNFCCC that finish 9 December must end with a step forward rather than a step backwards.

This means a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement that builds on the Kyoto Protocol. Decisions are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent by 2020 by developed counties.

During a special Mass at Emmanuel Cathderal in Durban, Cardinal Rodriguez delivered a homily asking how long will countless people have to go on dying before adequate decisions are taken.

“Powerful nations of the world, we are expecting from you the courageous decisions the world needs to live in peace and solidarity,” he said.

Read the full homily below Continue reading

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Durban climate talks: We have a voice

A marcher on the interfaith rally calling for a voice for civil society at UN talks in Durban. Credit: Patrick Nicholson/Caritas

By Patrick Nicholson

Thousands of civil society campaigners marched through Durban to protest at a failure of governments within the UN climate talks to make progress on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and providing financing for poor countries to adapt to the consequences of extreme weather conditions.

Among them were Caritas staff from Africa, Europe and Latin America, who joined interfaith campaigners calling for a voice at the talks.

“We are protagonists of our own future,” said Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga earlier to some of the marchers. They were participating at a meeting organised by German Catholic development agency Misereor and Catholic development network CIDSE. Continue reading

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Caritas lobbies G77 bloc at Durban climate talks

By Adriana Opromolla, Caritas Internationalis policy analyst

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga brought the concerns of Caritas members to one of the most important negotiating groups at the Durban climate talks: the 132 nation G77 and China bloc of developing countries.

Cardinal Rodriguez met with G77 and China Presidency, Ambassador Silvia Merega of Argentina along with Caritas members from Europe and Latin America. He explained the importance of climate change for Caritas and the Church today. The Cardinal stressed the need to reach a just deal for future generations.

Ambassador Merega said different trends are emerging throughout the negotiations: firstly, even though the meeting aims at addressing a collective global problem such as climate change, the reality is that what is being negotiated is economic interests. This makes negotiations a long and complex process.

Secondly, she said, the various countries gathered here present different levels of development, therefore different economic capacities to make commitments. This puts further strain on negotiations.

And she said that some of the issues involved in climate change – namely, the financial aspects – are not being discussed here. Continue reading

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Durban climate talks: African voices urge climate justice

African civil society street event at the UN climate change conference in Durban. Credit: Patrick Nicholson

By Patrick Nicholson

African faith leaders sent a strong message to delegates at the UN climate change conference in Durban, urging political leaders to take the decisions necessary for the survival of humanity.

“We demand that our political leaders honour previous commitments, and quickly move towards more humane, environmentally responsible policies and practises,” said Cardinal Wilfrid Napier OFM of Durban on behalf of the KwaZulu Natal Interfaith Community at a press conference at the climate summit.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries are meeting in the South African city from 28 November to 9 December for major talks under the UNFCCC on a deal to cut greenhouse gas pollution and provide funding for poor countries to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

“There is strong evidence that such steps will not be taken at COP-17,” said Cardinal Napier, urging religious and spiritual communities globally to do what political leaders have failed to do.

“We will no longer accept words and catchy phrases. We want a commitment to action immediately,” he said, reflecting an ‘enough is enough” statement signed by local Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres with local faith leaders. Credit: Patrick Nicholson/Caritas

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres attended the press conference, where she collected the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change. She said, “The message is loud and clear. This climate is only lent to us for a few minutes. I will take your concerns to governments. Please pray that they find the right path.”

Delegates at Durban are looking at a deal to follow the Kyoto Protocol, which poor nations insist must be extended beyond 2012 and which is the only treaty that sets carbon caps. Richer countries say that a new deal will not be in place until 2020.

The Least Developed Countries bloc and small island states have just tabled papers saying the deal should be finalised within a year. Such a proposal is at odds with many rich nations, but also India, China and Brazil. They want to delay.

Stephen Kituku of Caritas Kenya is part of the Caritas delegation in Durban. He says, “Many people have come to Durban with reserved expectations. People hope it will be a building block at best.”

But time is running out. Scientists predict that temperature will already rise by 3°C in Africa, higher than the global average. Already extreme and unpredictable weather is hitting African farmers hard. East Africa experienced its worst drought in 60 years this summer. Millions were left reliant on food aid.

“We needed a deal yesterday,” said Shivaji Samson Malesi, also of Caritas Kenya. “We are always putting out fires. Flood follows drought. We look at the farmer in Kenya and question if they have a future. We need global action to manage the increase in temperature.”

Stephen Kituku and Samson Malesi of Caritas Kenya

Caritas Kenya has been meeting with the Kenyan government delegation at Durban as part of their efforts to rally to rally African leadership behind one position.

It was the same aim which propelled the Trans African Caravan of Hope. Six buses and some 300 ‘Caravanites’ drove from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana to Durban in South Africa. Along the two week journey, they held concerts, climate hearings and climate walks.

The aim was to let people know about climate change and the meeting in Durban and to engage with governments. Samson Malesi was also one of the organisers. He says despite the discomfort, sleepless nights and logistical headaches, the caravan was worth it.

“We got the country’s leadership engaged,” he said. “Now African politicians have come under one position rather than working at cross purposes as in previous climate negotiations.”

And at the end the Caravanites presented a petition of African voices to the UNFCCC leadership. “We projected the African voice through the caravan,” said Samson Malesi.

Both Caritas Kenyan colleagues agree that African civil society voices have been heard. Whether they will be acted upon we will find out next week.

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Durban climate talks: What’s God got to do with it?

Credit: Ed Foster JR/CRS

By Patrick Nicholson

Q. What’s God got to do with it?
A. Everything

“At the centre of creation is human beings,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis at an event during the Durban climate talks. “Our economic system and its search for money above all have dehumanized human beings. Religious groups have a duty to humanize them again.”

Cardinal Rodriguez was part of a panel on ‘What’s God got to do with it’ during Climate Communications Day, a side event at the UNFCCC. Other panelists included Lic. Elias Crisostomo Abramides (World Council of Churches); Bishop Geoff Davies (Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute) and Rabbi Hillel Avidan.

Lic. Abramides said if we destroy plants and animals, we destroy ourselves.

Bishop Davies said all faith groups were united in saying to the politicians that this is not just an economic world but a beautiful world worth saving. He said science and religion must work together and the Christians who quoted the Bible saying man has dominion over the world are heretical.

“Earth and everything in it belongs to God,” he said.

Climate negotiations are the biggest industrial and energy revolution we have ever seen, according to Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, and she believes it is impossible to keep it within the environment paradigm.

Panelists agreed, arguing that climate change is a moral issue and that religious leaders can link it with God.

“[Copenhagen 2009] was not a conference on the environment, but a conference on economics,” said Cardinal Rodriguez. “Our modern tendency to search for money is destroying the environment.”

We should remember, he said, that the last pair of trousers we own have no pockets: meaning we don’t take anything with us when we die.

“We are just administrators of the Earth, not its owners” said CardinalRodriguez. “Creation was given to us as a treasure, to safeguard, not to destroy. We must work for the common good, but we have forgotten to be faithful administrators.”

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Advocacy in action at Durban climate talks

Dr Anwara Shelly from Caritas Bangladesh scored a negotiating success at the Durban talks

By Patrick Nicholson

An insurance policy covering loss and damage to your property if there is hurricane or flood isn’t an option if you are poor. But one of the smaller issues discussed at Durban is how to provide communities with just such coverage through a ‘loss and damages’ fund.

Dr Anwara Shelly from Caritas Bangladesh is taking part in the UN conference in Durban wearing two hats, both as Caritas and on the official Government of Bangladesh delegation.

On the details of negotiations in the conference centre, Caritas experience in the field can have a real impact. At a session on the loss and damage fund, Dr Shelly raised her hand to urge that fund not be targeted at the national level, but at the local or district level where it can be most effective.

“My 24 years of experience with Caritas Bangladesh has shown me that in a disaster, we must be able to mobilize funds at the local level,” she said, pointing to the cyclones that have ravaged her country. She says that people surviving the initial hazard often suffer because it takes weeks to reach them.

Her intervention was welcomed, and she received the backing of Bolivia, Cook Islands, East Timor and Tuvalu. That means her suggestion will be included in the text for further discussion and approval by the delegates.

Dr Shelly was present at UN talks on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010, but this is her first time as an official country delegate.

“I can speak on behalf of my country and on behalf of the poor people,” she said. “I can bring their concerns to negotiating table.”

Climate change in Bangladesh is a critical issue. Science shows that by 2050 17 percent of the country will be underwater. That means tens of millions of people will be displaced. One of the issues Caritas Bangladesh is asking for is that the UN officially recognizes “climate refugees”. Currently it doesn’t, which affects their legal status.

The fate of Bangladesh hangs in the balance in Durban as delegates try to agree on what to do with the Kyoto Protocal.

Dr Shelly has witnessed years of tense UN-led climate talks that have so far failed to come up with a new legally binding deal that will curb greenhouse gas emissions and fund developing countries to cope with the impact of extreme weather.

“Negotiations are very slow,” said Dr Shelly, doubting rich countries commitment to a new deal. But her own actions in Durban show that change is possible. Bangladesh has no choice, but then neither does anyone else if we want to save the world for future generations.

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Cardinal Rodriguez at Durban climate talks

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez meeting a local parish outside Durban on a visit to see the work of Caritas South Africa. Credit Patrick Nicholson

By Patrick Nicholson

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Honduras met UN officials today as talks in Durban on climate change continued. The Cardinal is representing Caritas Internationalis at the UNFCCC meeting along with Caritas members from South Africa, Kenya, Bangladesh, and the British Isles.

Some 25,000 government officials, lobbyists and scientists are expected to attend the two-week conference that is seeking a new deal to follow the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Cardinal Rodriguez met with UNFCCC Chief of Staff Daniele Violetti to discuss the impact of climate change on the world’s poor and the importance of faith leaders in mobilising support for action. Violletti stressed the importance of bottom-up pressure from civil society and faith groups in combating climate change.

This Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI’s called for delegates at the climate talks to agree a responsible and credible deal to cut greenhouse gases.

“I hope that all members of the international community agree on a responsible and credible response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, taking into account the needs of the poorest and future generations,” said the Pope at the Sunday Angelus in Rome.

In Durban, Cardinal Wilfred Napier told a special Mass on Sunday that the season of Advent offered hope of a new beginning and that the Durban conference also held out hope for a new start for humanity if delegates seized the chance with a new deal.

Before catching his plane to Durban on Monday, Cardinal Rodriguez led a group of Italian teenagers to meet Pope Benedict. The Pope asked them to be the “true guardians of life and creation”. He said, “Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one.”

Cardinal Rodriguez reflected the concerns and message of the Pope in meetings Tuesday, saying the science was clear on the damage climate change will cause and the first-hand experience of Caritas staff in emergencies shows the poor will suffer the greatest. What is missing, he said, is political will.

Caritas is calling for a legally binding deal that will put in place the cuts in greenhouse gases necessary and the financing to help poor country’s adapt to the worst consequences.

A deal is in the balance as delegates argues over who cuts first and deepest and how to pay to support developing countries.

Delegates from developing countries repeated the need for a multilateral legally binding agreement, but a post-Kyoto deal received a blow with Canada announcing Canada’s announcement that it would not accept further emission cuts under the treaty.

Later in the day, Cardinal Rodriguez and a group of Caritas representatives from various countries visited a local parish in nearby Kwa Mashu that is supported by Caritas South Africa. They heard pleas from people about the need for a deal at the climate talks and how floods and bad weather were affecting them.

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