UN Climate Speech / 04 Jul, 2018
At Vatican, Patricia Espinosa Calls for “Ark of Climate Ambition”

UN Climate Change News - At the Vatican in Rome on Thursday, the UN’s top climate change official Patricia Espinosa has called for “an ark of ambition” to tackle climate change.

Alluding to Noah’s ark, the biblical vessel that saved humanity from extinction, and the need to peak and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, including massive floods and sea level rise, she said:

If we truly want to make the fundamental, transformative changes [necessary to combat climate change], perhaps what we need then is not a physical ark, but an ark of ambition,”

The Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change was speaking at an International Conference entitled “Saving our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth” in the Vatican (5 and 6 July).

Organized to coincide with the third anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Sì”, the event is being attended by Vatican officials and leading climate experts. 

Ms. Espinosa made a passionate appeal to leaders of all faiths to heed the many warning signs of accelerating climate change, and to draw the consequences:

“Climate change doesn’t care if we’re Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, or other—but through a unity of efforts, we can address it”, she said.

At the Vatican, Ms. Espinosa outlined the key tasks nations need to accomplish in order to effectively combat climate change  –  including finalizing the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement this year, and sticking to their promises to deliver USD 100 billion annually by 2020 to support the climate action efforts of developing countries.

Watch Ms. Espinosa´s speech here or read her full remarks below.

Pope Francis: COP24 could prove a milestone on path set out in Paris

On Friday 6 July, Pope Francis received participants at a conference. “Your presence here is a sign of your commitment to take concrete steps to save the planet and the life it sustains, inspired by the Encyclical’s assumption that ‘everything is connected. That principle lies at the heart of an integral ecology”, Pope Francis said:

Pope Francis noted the “increasingly accurate assessments” of the scientific community concerning the environment. “There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts, and refuse,” he said.

He expressed his hope that “concern for the state of our common home” would be translated into concrete actions to preserve the environment. In particular, he called on governments to honour their commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement “in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.” The COP24 Summit, he said, “could prove a milestone on the path set out” by the Agreement.

Pope Francis said that “challenges are not lacking” and encouraged the participants, saying, “Please continue to work for ‘the radical change which present circumstances require.’ For ‘injustice is not invincible.’”

Read his full remarks here.

Pope Francis addresses participants at the International Conference on the Third Anniversary of Laudato si’
Pope Francis addresses participants at the International Conference on the Third Anniversary of Laudato si’

The event at the Vatican marks the 3rd anniversary of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical, published just months ahead of the Paris UN Climate Change Conference in France at which the Paris Agreement was inked.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Sì” is credited with providing key momentum for the successful clinching of the agreement, as it convinced millions of Catholics world-wide of the urgency to act.

Pope Francis has been strongly speaking out in favor of climate action since then.

Addressing oil and gas executives last month, he urged them to rapidly transition to clean fuels in order to avert climate disaster.

Here is the address by Patricia Espinosa:

It’s an honour and a privilege to speak with you today.

The Vatican is a treasured destination for many throughout the world, including those from my home country of Mexico.

I want to begin by discussing a narrative that is common to many cultures and faith communities throughout the world.

It’s the story of a great flood that took place long ago.

While different cultures tell it in different ways, most outline how humankind not only had warning that rising waters were coming, but that those warnings were ignored.

Now, let me be clear: I don’t propose we begin building an ark—at least not a physical one—but it’s hard to ignore some parallels with today.

Every day we are seeing evidence of climate change and its devastating impacts on populations around the globe.

Two weeks ago, a respected scientific publication published an article with major implications for people everywhere.

It reported that the rate at which the continent of Antarctica is losing ice has tripled since 2007.

The pace is alarming: scientists say it will contribute six inches—or 15cm—to sea-level rise by the year 2100.

Six inches of water—that’s roughly the height of the pens some of you are holding in your hands.

But for many nations, six inches of water is the difference between existing and not existing.

We have more than Antarctica to worry about.

I was recently in Austria where their glaciers are melting fast. In 2015 alone, three glaciers retreated by more than 320 feet—more than half the height of St. Paul’s Cathedral[1]. They’re in retreat throughout the world.

All that melting ice must go somewhere. In addition to small island nations, rising waters are already threatening densely-populated coastlines in numerous countries.

This includes China, where some of their most economically-developed cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangzhou are under threat.

Consider the consequences.

Just a one-meter rise in sea level could inundate 92,000 square kilometers of China’s coast, displacing 67 million people. That’s more than the entire population of Italy.

In the past, what happened in one country affected one economy. Natural disasters were isolated. No longer.

What happens in China, what happens in any major city, has a ripple effect throughout the world.

If left unchecked, climate change can disrupt our most basic institutions, and the global economy, with repercussions for all.

But climate change is more than a weather issue. It’s more than an economic issue. And it’s more than the numbers and statistics we use to describe it.

Climate change, and our response to it, raises larger questions about who we are, why we’re here, and where we’re collectively going.

Climate change is about morality: who are we to willingly destroy the ancient and intricate beauty of the world?

Climate change is about legacy: who are we to leave a debt of neglect to an unborn generation?

Climate change is about community: who are we to live beside our neighbours—be it next door neighbour or neighbouring country—and turn our backs on our shared challenges and responsibilities?

Climate change is about potential: who are we to ignore our enormous power to affect change on a global scale?

And climate change is about opportunity: who are we to ignore the fact that, by addressing climate change, we can also address some of humanity’s biggest challenges?

Because if you follow the string of climate change, you’ll see that it’s attached to issues such as poverty, hunger, equality, migration, human rights and so much more.

If we truly want to make the fundamental, transformative changes to achieve all of this, perhaps what we need then is not a physical ark, but an ark of ambition.

We need it. We’re at a critical point in history. Our window of opportunity is rapidly closing and we must work together to turn things around.

It’s up to people everywhere—those in high office and small villages; those in corporate leadership and those leading small movements—people everywhere—to take climate action.

That includes the faith community. Climate change doesn’t care if we’re Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, or other—but through a unity of efforts, we can address it.

The Paris Agreement is the product of such unity. It represents our path forward, our guiding light. It has everything we need to address climate change.

But we must unleash its potential—and that’s where we need your help.

We have three primary goals to complete by the end of this year, leading up to COP24 in Poland in December.

First, we must complete its implementation guidelines, known as the Paris Agreement Work Program.

Second, we must significantly accelerate global climate ambition before 2020.

While we’ve seen progress by both government and non-government bodies, it’s not nearly enough.

The fact is that what countries have currently pledged isn’t enough to help us limit global temperature rise to under
2-degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5 degrees.

So, we need to reflect that increased ambition in the next round of Nationally-Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.

Third in our list is finance which also must be addressed at COP24.

Nations must come through on their promises under the Paris Agreement to deliver $100 billion by 2020 to support the climate change efforts of developing countries.

Trying to fight climate change at current rates of financing is like trying to navigate the great flood not in an ark, but a rowboat.

Still, we are optimistic we can achieve our goals.

We see signs of progress everywhere. We see it in the switch to renewable energy. We see it in the commitments made by corporations to green their efforts and lower emissions.

We see it in people coming together to create change, such as America’s Pledge, the Global Covenant of Mayors, the Past Coal Coalition, Climate 100+, and the upcoming California Summit.

And we see it with the Vatican as well.

Pope Francis’s Laudato Si is a direct, clear and undeniable call for global action. It’s also beautifully written.

As he writes: “nothing in this world is indifferent to us.”

This is matched by a message of hope: “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.”

Pope Francis then issues a direct appeal, requesting a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of the planet, writing:

We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.

Indeed, working together is the only way forward.

Looking ahead, we need your help to convey this idea of cooperation and positive ambition leading up to COP24 in Poland.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is we achieve the three tasks I talked about earlier.

They are crucial—whether we’re talking about fulfilling the Paris Agreement or the Laudato.

We must make progress now, not tomorrow. We need you to continue delivering that message.

Ladies and gentlemen, I recognize none of this is easy—nothing this transformative or important ever is. But it’s worth it.
It’s worth it because by addressing climate change, we can build a better future, both for this generation and all generations to follow…

…a future that is both cleaner and greener, but one where poverty is reduced, rights are shared more equally by all, and that all people can live, love, learn and prosper.

Thank you.