Senior Christian figures have issued a stark warning of the “catastrophic consequences” which will result due to inaction on tackling the climate crisis, with just two months to go before the UN’s Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow,
Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church – the second-largest Christian church after Catholicism – have released a first-ever joint statement, saying the meeting is a “critical moment” and an opportunity for “transformation”.
In the statement, the three leaders urge people to “choose life”, to “listen to the cry of the Earth and of people who are poor”, and call on international leaders to embark upon a transition to “just and sustainable economies”.
While illustrating the deadly impacts on humans around the world of the extreme weather caused by global climate breakdown, the statement also takes aim at greed and the role of 21st century capitalism in the climate crisis.
“We have maximised our own interest at the expense of future generations,” the statement said.
“By concentrating on our wealth, we find that long-term assets, including the bounty of nature, are depleted for short-term advantage. Technology has unfolded new possibilities for progress but also for accumulating unrestrained wealth, and many of us behave in ways which demonstrate little concern for other people or the limits of the planet.”
The three clerics also highlight how the various impacts of the climate crisis are felt most acutely by the poorest and those who use the least resources.
“We stand before a harsh justice,” the statement said. “Biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure.
“But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”
Writing about the recent extreme weather events around the world, including wildfires, droughts and flooding, they said: “Tomorrow could be worse. Today’s children and teenagers will face catastrophic consequences unless we take responsibility now.
“We must acknowledge that the ways we use money and organise our societies have not benefited everyone. We find ourselves weak and anxious, submersed in a series of crises; health, environmental, food, economic and social, which are all deeply interconnected.”
The coming summit in Glasgow, the statement suggested, provides “a unique position” to tackle these crises, “either to address them with shortsightedness and profiteering or seize this as an opportunity for conversion and transformation”.
Outlining their decision to issue a joint statement, they said: “This is the first time that the three of us feel compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation.”
The statement added: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”