AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis’ climate call to action in encyclical

Rolling coverage from the launch of the Pope’s call to all Catholics to respect the environment and tackle climate change

By Ed King and Megan Darby

Papal Encyclical Laudato Si published
– Watch press conference on Vatican’s YouTube channel
– Analysis: Pope takes climate debate mainstream
What does the Pope’s encyclical mean for the climate fight?
– Letter to have “major impact says top UN climate official

1710 BST: We’re going to wrap up now. There have been so many comments flooding in on this, sorry we couldn’t include them all.

The main thrust is that Pope Francis supports urgent action on climate change, with particular concern for its impact on the world’s poorest.

Coming six months before countries are due to sign off a global climate pact in Paris, it is a bullish intervention, writes Ed King.

At 246 paragraphs, it is a thorough exploration of a healthy spiritual relationship with nature that will give the faithful plenty to chew over.

Green campaigners have warmly welcomed the moral dimension it brings to the conversation. Meanwhile, it has rattled climate-sceptic conservatives in the US and Poland.

1657 BST: Whatever you think of the details of the encyclical, it’s certainly sparking discussions in high places.

John Boehner, speaker of the US House of Representatives, fielded a question on it. Unlike some of his Republican colleagues, he didn’t tell the Pope to mind his own business – nor did he endorse the document.

1651 BST: The Catholic News Agency highlights Pope Francis’ messages against abortion and population control in the encyclical – stances that may sit uncomfortably with some of his liberal fans.

Concern for the protection of nature is “incompatible with the justification of abortion,” he writes, asking: “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”

Blaming population growth for strain on resources is “one way of refusing to face the issues”, he says, when the fault lies with “extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some”. He lamented the pressure placed on developing countries to improve reproductive health as a condition of aid.

The document also criticises as unhealthy the attitude that seeks “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”.

1639 BST: The Pope’s encyclical is getting a mixed reception in heavily Catholic Poland, Euractiv reports.

Right-wing Polish paper Rzeczpospolita described the document as “anti-coal” and – given the country’s reliance on coal mining and power generation – “anti-Polish”.

Asked to comment on the encyclical, Andrzej Jaworski, a member of parliament with the conservative Law and Justice party, told Euractiv: “The Polish energy sector not only should, but must be based on coal.

“We can’t turn our backs on coal production, building coal mines, or building coal power plants.”

1529 BST: Encyclical could be “turning point in our decades-long search for meaningful climate action,” says Environmental Defense Fund

“We hope that people everywhere, and especially those in positions of power and influence, will reflect on his moral appeal to care for our common home and act on his message of urgency… But it is up to all of us to make it so,” says president, Fred Krupp at the American NGO.

1523 BST: The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) has called the Pope’s stance on carbon markets as “way out of step”.

The encyclical said carbon credits could be a “ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors”

While welcoming Pope Francis’ call for climate action in the run-up to Paris, IETA, a nonprofit business body retorted:

“[T]he encyclical’s brief mention of carbon credits was out of step with the views of most economists and analysts.  Carbon markets are typically quite competitive, and they contain safeguards against the excessive speculation warned about in the encyclical.  It misses the more important point that market mechanisms can help keep the costs down for producers and consumers alike.  Through their cost-effectiveness, market approaches can enable more ambitious emissions cuts to be achieved – and more quickly than cumbersome regulations.

1458 BST: The encyclical is not just for Catholics, but “addressed to all people of good will” (Paragraph 62).

A number of Muslims, who today start fasting for the month of Ramadan, have welcomed the message.

Imam Mohamed Magid, an advisor to President Obama on Islamic issues, called on every mosque to deliver Friday sermons on serving and protecting the environment.

“The Earth is home for all creatures created by God,” he said in a statement. “It is God who has so perfectly provided an abundance of resources for His creations to share. From the ant to the human, from the powerless to the powerful, He has not divided His blessings between the strong and the weak, or the rich and the poor. Therefore, we must maintain the same equal access and not create difficulty in obtaining the bounties He has bestowed, based on wealth because we were wasteful out of greediness and convenience.”

1447 BST: It is the timing and rhetoric of the Pope’s intervention that stand out, writes RTCC’s own Ed King.

Six months ahead of a UN summit in Paris to get a binding global deal on climate change, Pope Francis frames environmental degradation not simply as a problem or a statistic, but a sin.

1433 BST: As for those sceptical Catholics tempted to reject their leader’s highest teaching and go it alone, Jeer Heet has a cautionary tale.

Writing in the New Republic, he notes that the last time US conservatives dismissed an encyclical, “it ended terribly for them”.

In the 1960s, there was a rift between conservative and liberal Catholics that came to a head with the release of Mater et Magistra, in which Pope John XXIII sent a distinctly anti-colonialist message.

Fixated on fighting communism, conservative Catholics broke away from the mainstream faith and lost their influential position in society, Heet says.

1417 BST: Hi, this is Megan Darby taking over. Environmentalists are rushing to embrace the Pope’s message on climate change, but Jamie Clarke of the Climate Outreach and Information Network warns against crowding out the religious narrative with traditional green tropes.

In order to reach a new audience with climate messages, he argues in a blog, you need to let trusted messengers tell the story their own way.

A case in point is the Hollywood-style trailer that has been doing the rounds. It might appeal to those already signed up to the climate cause, but to sceptical Catholics the violent tone “may not ring true”, he says.

By contrast, this simpler and more serious effort from the Global Catholic Climate Movement, grounded in Catholic values and language, “could be far more engaging”.

1357 BST: UK environment minister sides with Pope instead of her predecessor, a climate sceptic. Growing convergence between DEFRA and DECC on climate?

1240 BST: Remarkably similar reaction and commentary across the leading news agencies and networks –

Reuters: Pope calls for “action now” to save planet, stem warming
New York Times: Pope Francis Aligns Himself With Mainstream Science
Guardian: Encyclical tells rich nations: “pay your debts to the poor”
Daily Telegraph: Climate change mainly man-made’ declares Pope
Sydney Morning Herald: Pope issues urgent plea to humanity to halt climate change
BBC: Pope Francis encyclical calls for end to fossil fuels
Spectator: Francis is slapping his conservative critics in the face
Inside Climate News: Next Comes The Hard Part

1230 BST: The reaction keeps flowing. Former Ireland president, UN climate envoy and climate justice campaigner Mary Robinson says the text calls on all countries to work together “in solidarity” for the world’s poorest.

“Many of us have tried to bring a people-centred approach to climate change over the years and the Encyclical adds real weight to our arguments. It frames climate change as a human issue, of justice and fairness, and reminds us that the earth is ‘a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone’.  I am pleased to see references to climate change in the context of intergenerational equity, poverty eradication, social justice and human rights – all of which add to the moral case for action.”

1225 BST: And here’s Bob Perciasepe, head of the US-based Center for Climate and Energy Solutions… he says the encyclical could be a “powerful counterpoint to what has become a largely ideologically driven debate, especially here in the United States” – read more on his blog.

1220 BST: Lord Stern, author of the widely quoted 2006 Stern report on the economics of climate change says the encyclical is of “enormous significance”

“He has shown great wisdom and leadership. Pope Francis is surely absolutely right that climate change raises vital moral and ethical issues. It is poor people around the world who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as an intensification of extreme weather events. And the decisions that we make about managing the risks of climate change matter not only for us, but also for our children, grandchildren and future generations.”

Stern goes on…

“Moral leadership on climate change from the Pope is particularly important because of the failure of many heads of state and government around the world to show political leadership. I hope other religious and community leaders will also speak out about how to tackle the two defining challenges of our generation, namely overcoming poverty and managing the risks of climate change. This would encourage greater political leadership in the run-up to the summit in Paris at the end of this year where countries should reach a new international agreement on tackling climate change.”

1210 BST: Big day but the man in white looks chilled…

1205 BST: The encyclical has made it across the Atlantic – doubtless it will be compulsory reading at the Heartland Institute (see below). Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent) is one of the loudest voices on Capitol Hill for tough climate regulations. His office has just issued a statement saying denial of climate change is no longer acceptable.

“Pope Francis’ powerful message on climate change should change the debate around the world and become a catalyst for the bold actions needed to reverse global warming. The pope helps us all see how those with the least among us will fare the worst from the consequences of climate change. I very much appreciate that the Republican leadership has invited the pope to address Congress.  I hope they listen to what he has to say.”

Andrew Holland, a fellow at the DC-based American Security Project also offers some useful thoughts…

1200 BST: Classy touch by the Pope, adding a handwritten note to copies sent to bishops, “In a bond of unity, charity and peace,” he writes.

Personal letter

1150 BST: We’re into a Q&A at the press conference. First up, Bloomberg asks Cardinal Turkson what he makes of criticism of the Pope’s message from US Republicans…

“That the Pope should not deal in science sounds a bit strange… it’s in the public domain that anyone can get into. We all talk about subject matters not always when we are experts but because they concern us and our lives. The fact that we are not experts does not exclude the possibility of sharing views,” he says.

“It’s very easy to say because the Pope is not a scientist he shouldn’t talk… but that’s pushing exclusion of people.”

He goes on to add (it’s hard to make out some words) that he thinks there’s no “credibility” to calls for the Pope to keep quiet.

What’s he referring to? Probably recent comments by Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and other right wing commentators at the Heartland Institute.

1135 BST: Thoughts of the head of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner:

“This encyclical is a clarion call that resonates not only with Catholics, but with all of the Earth’s peoples. Science and religion are aligned on this matter: The time to act is now. “With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in September and a climate agreement in December, we have the opportunity to positively alter the course of history, creating a better and more equitable world for all.”

1130 BST: To say green and development groups are a little excited about this would be a massive understatement. Here’s a selection of the reaction so far…

Penny Lawrence, Oxfam’s Deputy Chief Executive: “The Pope is right – climate change is a problem for all of humanity that is hitting the world’s poorest hardest. His words could and should add real urgency to efforts to protect people and planet.”

Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute: “The pope’s message builds on 3,000 years of religious thought on the importance of being good stewards of the planet. From the Garden of Eden, through King David and the prophet Ezekiel the message has been the same: we abuse nature at our peril.” Executive Director, May Boeve: “By putting the climate crisis in spiritual and moral terms, Pope Francis has focused a spotlight on the ethical and economic shift we urgently need in order to prevent catastrophic climate change and tackle growing inequality.

WWF President Yolanda Kakabadse:Climate change is no longer just a scientific issue; it is increasingly a moral and ethical one. It affects the lives, livelihoods and rights of everyone, especially the poor, marginalized and most vulnerable communities.”

1120 BST: Credit to the hard working team at Carbon Brief who have been flogged through the night with just bread and water for sustenance to find the climate highlights in the encyclical. Here are some of the choice paragraphs they picked out:

The ecological crisis

119. Nor must the critique of a misguided anthropocentrism underestimate the importance of interpersonal relations. If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships.

The rights of future generations

159. The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity.

The need for decisive action

161. Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth

Fossil-fuel phaseout

165. We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions.

Carbon credits

171. The strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors. 

Enabling poor countries to use renewables

172. For poor countries, the priorities must be to eliminate extreme poverty and to promote the social development of their people. At the same time, they need to acknowledge the scandalous level of consumption in some privileged sectors of their population and to combat corruption more effectively.

On Paris climate deal

173. Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention. Relations between states must be respectful of each other’s sovereignty, but must also lay down mutually agreed means of averting regional disasters which would eventually affect everyone

1116 BST: Even the Tablet is getting into the science…


1115 BST: back at the press conference, journalists are getting a briefing on climate science and its links to this letter from Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts. “Everything in the encyclical is in line with scientific evidence,” he says. A small rise of 2-5C doesn’t seem much, he says, but imagine your body temperature rises by that much?


1110 BST: Reaction is flooding in… here’s UN climate chief Christiana Figueres:

“Pope Francis’ encyclical underscores the moral imperative for urgent action on climate change to lift the planet’s most vulnerable populations, protect development, and spur responsible growth. This clarion call should guide the world towards a strong and durable universal climate agreement in Paris at the end of this year. Coupled with the economic imperative, the moral imperative leaves no doubt that we must act on climate change now.”

1105 BST: The Pope gets in early with his backing for climate science and the causes behind global warming:

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.”

1100 BST: The encyclical is out – you can read the full version here… we’ll be pulling out the key messages shortly

1055 BST: We’ve got a packed house for the encyclical launch… journalists from across the world crammed into the Vatican’s press centre


1050 BST: “The ecological crisis is essentially a spiritual crisis”, says Emza John Ziziloulas, an eminent Christian Orthodox theologian who is on the press conference panel this morning – an attempt perhaps to show how united the various Catholic and Christian faiths are on this issue.

He goes on (I’m paraphrasing)… the church must introduce the idea of sin against the environment… care for environment should be a priority for all Christians who care for their salvation. Ecological sin is due to human greed which blinds men and women to basic truth that happiness of individual depends on relationship to rest of human beings.

We need to protect god’s creation from damage we humans inflict on it. This is a key moment in human history and will undoubtedly have a worldwide effect on consciousness.


1045 BST: According to the Tablet, a Catholic newspaper in the UK, the Vatican’s top brass have been dragged out to show their support. But what of Australia’s Cardinal Pell, head of reforming the Vatican’s finances and a keen climate sceptic?

1040 BST: Turkson has wrapped up with a call for everyone to take the climate challenge to heart. The poorest and indigenous peoples will be first to suffer – he warns.


1035 BST: Unlikely support for the Pope trickling in from the UK government, which today announced it was cutting subsides for onshore wind power a year earlier than many expected.

1030 BST: The key theme from this speech by Cardinal Turkson, who I’m pretty sure would be happier talking in English, is that the environmental and social crisis are one and have the same roots. The leaked draft of the encyclical focused heavily on this argument.

“A crime against nature is a crime against ourselves,” the document said. “Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it.”

1020 BST: The full encyclical will be released at 1200 CET, that’s 1100 BST. Fortunately there are others watching and tweeting who do understand what Cardinal Turkson is saying – here’s a selection

1010 BST: One of the Pope’s leading advisors Cardinal Turkson is now taking in stilted Italian. Lots of laughs from the Cardinals but it’s hard to follow – it sounds like he’s thanking a series of scientific institutions.

Earlier this year Turkson told a meeting of Catholic leaders in London the letter would “explore the relationship between care for creation, integral human development and concern for the poor.”

The Pope will seek to bring the “warmth of hope” to the wider debates on climate change and development, he said, while steering a path away from the “Herods” and “omens of destruction and death,” he added.

1004 BST: The Pope’s press chief Father Lombardi is now speaking. In Italian. I’m hoping he may change into a language more of the world understands.

1000 BST: In his weekly address on Wednesday, Pope Francis asked that his message on protecting the environment be met with an “open spirit”. The document he said was within what he termed the church’s “social doctrine”

“As you know, the encyclical on the care of the ‘common home’ that is creation will be published. This ‘common home’ is being ruined and therefore hurts everyone, especially the most poor. Therefore, I would like to launch an appeal to responsibility, based on the task which God gave to man in creation: ‘to cultivate and protect’ the ‘garden’ in which humanity has been placed. I invite all to welcome with an an open spirit this document, which places itself in the line of the Church’s social doctrine.”

0950 BST: I’m Ed King and welcome to our rolling coverage of the Papal Encyclical on the environment, due out in the next 10 minutes. We’ll bring you the reaction from the Vatican press conference, highlights from the letter to Catholics and comment from around the world. You can watch the launch on the Vatican’s YouTube channel. NSFW does not apply here.

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