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Pope calls out UAE’s ‘conflict of interest’ as Cop28 host in strongest ever statement on climate crisis

Pope stresses on necessity of widespread change in ‘irresponsible lifestyle connected with Western model’

Stuti Mishra
Wednesday 04 October 2023 17:18 BST
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File image: Pope Francis issued the most stern call so far on climate crisis
File image: Pope Francis issued the most stern call so far on climate crisis (via REUTERS)

Pope Francis has called out the “conflict of interest” of the United Arab Emirates as this year’s climate summit host in the strongest ever statement released by the Vatican on the climate crisis.

In a new document titled “Laudate Deum” or “Praise God” on Wednesday, the Pope issued a stern call for climate action and questioned UAE’s position as a host for climate summit while it is “a great exporter of fossil fuels”.

Francis wrote “although it (UAE) has made significant investments in renewable energy sources”, the country is “known as a great exporter of fossil fuels”.

He also expressed worry that “gas and oil companies are planning new projects there, with the aim of further increasing their production”.

The 28th United Nations climate summit, also known as Cop28, will be held in Dubai this year between 29 November and 14 December, where countries will assemble to find ways to tackle the worsening crisis.

The concerns raised by Francis over UAE have been widely discussed by climate activists and scientists, especially since the country announced the CEO of oil company ADNOC, Sultan Al Jaber, as the head of the summit.

Just this week, Mr Al Jaber was speaking at the oil and gas conference in Dubai where he said he wants fossil fuel companies to be “central to the solution” to climate crisis, something activists view suspiciously given that oil companies continue to invest in more projects despite increasing calls for transition to renewables.

Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 president-designate and UAE's special envoy for climate change, talks during the Climate Future Week at Museum of the Future in Dubai (AP)

In a response to the Pope’s call for action, Mr Al Jaber said his presidency is committed “to deliver ambitious climate action” at the Cop28 summit.

“The Cop28 Presidency welcomes His Holiness the Pope’s urgent call for increased climate action,” Mr Al Jaber said in a statement to The Independent.

“We share his hope ‘that COP28 will allow for a decisive acceleration of energy transition’.”

This statement from the Pope, which comes just a few weeks before the summit, marks the first time a papal document of this stature exclusively focused on climate crisis.

The document Laudato Deum is the most detailed one that’s comes from Vatican on the environment and its intended for all people, not just catholics and Christians.

In the issue, Francis echoed the calls by climate activists and directly criticised the oil and gas companies for greenwashing new fossil fuel projects.

He said the continued exploration of oil and gas “risks being seen only as a ploy to distract attention”.

He called out the slow progress in transitioning to clean energy sources such as wind and solar, stating, “the necessary transition... and the abandonment of fossil fuels, is not progressing at the necessary speed.”

As climate impacts increase in recent years, Francis has become more outspoken about the need for urgent action and has been supporting activists in their efforts. In 2021, he addressed a gathering of youth climate activists, thanking them for their vision and encouraging them to continue their efforts “for the good of humanity”.

Calling for immediate reduction in planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions, Francis said that “avoiding an increase of a tenth of a degree in the global temperature would already suffice to alleviate some suffering for many people”.

The Pope urged Cop28 negotiators to enforce binding and specific policies, emphasising the need for “binding forms of energy transition that are efficient, obligatory, and readily monitored.”

He also called out the Western world, including the United States, for their lack of substantial action on climate crisis.

He stressed the necessity of a widespread change in the “irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model”, emphasising its long-term impact.

Reacting to the Pope’s urgent call for action, Bill McKibben, co-founder of independent environmental organisation 350.org, said: “The work of spiritual leaders around the world may be our best chance of getting hold of things.”

Christiana Figueres, an architect of the Paris Agreement, also welcomed the Pope’s exhortation.

“I warmly welcome the Holy Father’s new exhortation. He reminds us to use the three human languages he has identified for us – head, heart, and hands – to protect nature and to protect the most vulnerable of our societies.”

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