Pope Francis believes people should boycott environmentally harmful products, one of his senior Vatican advisers said on Thursday.
In a message to mark the Catholic church’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the Pope called on governments and individuals to take radical action to tackle climate change.
“Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact,” he said.
God gave us the earth “to till and to keep” in a balanced and respectful way.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 1, 2016
In an explanation of the message on the Vatican website, Cardinal Turkson, one of the Pontiff’s closest aides and his public face on global warming, said he wanted the public to take affirmative action to tackle environmental ills.
“Pope Francis says it is up to citizens to insist that these commitments are honoured, and to advocate for more ambitious goals,” Turkson wrote.
“He suggests that social pressure – including from boycotting certain products – can force businesses to consider their environmental footprint and patterns of production.”
That message is likely to jar with many conservative politicians in the US, who are staunch defenders of the oil, gas and coal industries who create products that are causing global warming.
Turkson – a Ghanaian who some tip as a future Pope – said developed countries also needed to step up and deliver higher levels of support.
“As part of paying down their ‘ecological debt’ to their poorer neighbours, richer countries need to provide them with needed financial and technical support,” he said.
“The same logic animates the fossil fuel divestment movement.”
In his address, Pope Francis called on Catholics to advocate for more ambitious climate goals on Friday, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
The figurehead for 1.25 billion believers worldwide wrote of the importance of shaping social change as well as living a greener lifestyle.
Planting trees, car-pooling and turning off unnecessary lights were all recommended. “We must not think that these efforts are too small to improve our world,” said the Pope.
“In the same way, the resolve to live differently should affect our various contributions to shaping the culture and society in which we live.”
His message is the latest in a string of interventions on climate change, notably the encyclical “Laudato Si” published last summer.
It provided a moral frame for the international Paris Agreement that followed in December.
In the US, it challenged climate scepticism among conservative Catholics – and some polls suggest he shifted views.