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POPE & OBAMA AGREE ON CLIMATE CHANGE


 

America’s top environmental official has assured the Vatican that the Pope and Barack Obama are singing from the same hymnal when it comes to fighting climate change. In a visit to the Vatican, Gina McCarthy, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), conveyed a message to the Pope that Obama shared his view that fighting climate change was a moral obligation. “I want him to know that the president is aligned with him on these issues and that we are taking action in the United States,” McCarthy told the National Catholic Reporter ahead of the meeting.

She went so far as to suggest that Obama was “working with the pope” when it came to climate change. That alliance, between Obama and the pope, followed from the view that leaders have a moral duty to preserve the earth and protect those most at risk from the consequences of climate change, McCarthy said. “I think the most important thing that we can do, working with the pope, is to try to remind ourselves that this is really about protecting natural resources that human beings rely on, and that those folks that are most vulnerable – that the church has always been focused on, those in poverty and low income – are the first that are going to be hit and impacted by a changing climate,” she said.

EPA officials said McCarthy used the meeting to applaud the Pope’s efforts to fight climate change, and to brief the Vatican on Obama’s plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming. “It was really about the efforts the US is taking on climate change and the need for everyone to be involved both domestically and internationally – both to work with the pope and thank for his efforts on this far,” a spokesperson said.

McCarthy did not meet the pope, but was greeted by a quartet of Vatican officials, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, the undersecretary for relations with states and the ministry’s top environmental official, Paolo Conversi as well as Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the pontifical council for justice and peace, and his director of environmental affairs, Tebaldo Vinciguerra. The four officials will help prepare a highly anticipated encyclical on the environment and climate change, expected to be published in June or July.

On Saturday, McCarthy was due to tour the Vatican’s solar panels, which are on top of the Paul VI hall. The pope said earlier this month that climate change was “mostly” man-made, and he said he hoped the encyclical and a planned address to the UN in September would push leaders to take more “courageous” actions.

The EPA administrator was born into an Irish Catholic family from Boston. Her trip to the Vatican, however, was part of a broader mission of putting climate change above partisan politics and persuading the American people to get behind the climate plan.

The pillar of the US climate plan – the first rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants are due to be finalised this summer. But they are under attack from Republicans in Congress and industry, who are trying to block or reduce the emissions cuts.

“One of the challenges that I think we face in the US is that climate change is very often viewed as a political issue,” McCarthy told reporters ahead of her meetings. “And environmental issues are not political.” She went on: “I think we need to get this out of the political arena and get it back to the arena we work most effectively on: what’s right for our kids, for our families, for public health, and what solutions do we bring to the table that are going to address those?”

Obama has no chance of meeting his emissions reductions targets if those rules are stalled or weakened. US officials and foreign diplomats believe an attack on those rules would shake international confidence in climate change negotiations heading towards a conclusion in Paris at the end of the year – putting the global effort to fight climate change in peril, along with that of the US.

Over the last 18 months, McCarthy has been doggedly visiting state and local leaders to try to gin up support for the power plant rules. Last week, she visited Aspen to mobilise support from the winter sports industry, which depends on cold weather and snow.

Some conservative sections of the church are opposed to Obama’s power plan. “Preservation of the environment and promotion of sustainable development? No problem. But climate change and the blundering malicious environment of the UN? No thanks. The pope can do better,” wrote Thomas Peters, a writer for Catholic Vote.

 

Courtesy The Guardian

 




 

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