Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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Report of the Franciscan delegation that participated on the World Climate Summit

from 2-10 December 2015 in Paris (COP21)

 

Introduction: For the first time in history, world leaders have made a public commitment to reduce global emissions and to take a hard look at the impact of climate change. For us Catholic Franciscans, the Paris COP 21 Agreement is a significant step forward on the road that leads us to care for and protect the poorest and most vulnerable people in the face of the damage resulting from climate change which by now, most scientists agree, is caused by human activity and the use of energy sources fed by fossil fuels.

The Paris COP 21 Agreement is but the beginning of a journey and we wanted to keep watch over this journey with great involvement and attention. Responding to our commitment to follow St. Francis and his spirituality in our life, we Franciscans will not rest until the vulnerable are protected, the poor achieve a better standard of living, and our common home, our Sister Mother Earth, is cared for and treated with the dignity that she deserves.

 

Key elements of the Paris Agreement:

i.     The objective of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. above pre-industrial levels;

ii.     A non-binding decision for the member nations to review their objectives in 2020, and every five years after that, with a goal to increasing their cuts in the projected greenhouse gas emissions and to have regular and periodic global reporting of the progress made towards the common goal of containing temperature increases.

iii.     A recognition that the 100 billion US Dollars annually promised by 2020 should be the basis of a permanent fund and that the financing should be reviewed regularly along with the national objectives of reducing greenhouse gases, with the objective of new financing, the amount of which should be agreed upon by 2025.

iv.     The acknowledgement that many countries are suffering loss and damage because of climate change, for which, however, the Agreement specifically excludes any responsibility or the possibility of requests for compensation.

We recognize that the Paris COP21 Agreement is an important development in the debate on possible solutions to the environmental crisis, especially in comparison with previous COP’s. Although this advancement, the agreement is weak because totally voluntary and does not address important aspects such as how to create and guarantee the financing that will allow the poorer nations to respond to the damage caused by the effects of climate change and also it doesn’t address themes related to the defense of human rights of the peoples concerned. These are some of the aspects which Pope Francis called to our attention with his Encyclical, “Laudato Sì”.

The Franciscan delegation at COP21

Continuing our commitment of presence at these moments that are so important and vital for the world[1], the members of the Interfranciscan JPIC Commission, commonly called Romans VI, organized and coordinated the participation of a Franciscan delegation in the work of COP 21, which resulted in the presence in Paris of 20 Franciscans from various parts of the world representing various branches of the Franciscan family. The Franciscan participation was a collaboration with Franciscans International, whose delegates participated at the official gatherings organized by the United Nations.

The goal of the delegation’s work was, through conversation and dialogue, to bring the contribution of Franciscan spirituality to existing discussions on these topics and to show that Franciscans are active and want to be increasingly and more concretely involved in the care “of our common home”, and to have a pro-active advocacy role on behalf of environmental justice and for the change of those structures that create conditions of extreme poverty and injustice.

As a result, the delegation decided to prepare a number of proposals that could be worked on together throughout the Franciscan family, which would continue and develop what was decided after our participation in RIO + 20. The proposals relate to the three areas as they relate to climate change:

  • Extraction industries – a response to the cry of the Earth
  • Economy – a response to the cry of the poor
  • Lifestyle (personal and collective witness)

We encourage one another to engage with civil societies, groups from other religions, and all people of good will in the dialogue on these topics with a goal of creating:

  • Greater awareness
  • Coordinated of action
  • A human rights based approach
  • Grass-roots involvement to influence governments
  • Advocacy actions.

As a follow-up to its participation in COP 21, the delegation created working groups to define the points on which to focus attention and offered the following:

Mining and extractive industries -  Industries (such as mining, lumbering, industrial fishing, agribusiness) that extract large quantities of natural resources, with their effect on the poor, or which deplete natural resources and impact the environment negatively. The group recommends actions such as:

  • Increasing awareness;
  • Sharing information and providing informed reflections;
  • Fostering networking among indigenous populations and other groups effected;
  • Dialogue with all;
  • Advocacy at all levels

The working group proposes a special focus on mining, industrial fishing and deforestation.

Economy – After our days at COP21, we have come to believe that the current system of economic development is flawed. Rather than helping the most vulnerable people on earth, it creates a widening gap between those who are wealthy and those who are poor. Inspired by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’: “there is a need to change models of global development;  this will entail a responsible reflection on “the meaning of the economy and its goals….

(194)”.

In the light of these two statements we are committed to engaging the whole Franciscan Family in a process of responsible reflection which will lead to actions for climate justice.

Lifestyle -

The proposal for a life-style change begins with small actions, (voluntarily renouncing “I want”

  • Recycling of renewable resources
  • Reduction in the use of non-renewable resources
  • Rejection of the “throwaway” culture
  • Production by the masses rather than mass production

and grows into committed involvement and advocacy at all levels of society.

Participants evaluated the experience of COP 21 very positively and everyone especially appreciated the involvement of the French Franciscan family, with whom we shared intense moments of prayer, interchange and fraternal joy in sharing food.

The times we shared with civil organizations and representatives of other faiths also helped the delegation to become more aware of how extremely important it is to network our own resources, energies and talents for a common effort on behalf of our “common home’.

Speaking after the Angelus prayer the Sunday following COP21, Pope Francis said, “With the hope that special attention for the most vulnerable populations is guaranteed…I exhort the whole international community to proceed on the path undertaken in the name of an ever more effective solidarity.”  As Franciscans, care for the most vulnerable populations is an integral part of our charism.  We have already begun this work; now, at this time of worldwide transformation, in the light of the example of St. Francis, we must reflect on our own lifestyles (personal, community, and social/political) and deepen our commitment to living out our solidarity with those who are most impoverished of humanity and of the rest of creation.  The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all; we are all called to be good stewards of our mother and sister Earth.

The Romans VI

[1] This presence began with an official delegation-s participation in the Rio +20 summit and continued with the World Social Forum in Tunis at the beginning of 2015.