Vatican hosts faith leaders ahead of Glasgow climate meeting

ROME (AP) — The Vatican will host a gathering of faith leaders this fall to build momentum behind a moral appeal for strong, courageous commitments to be taken at a November climate change conference in Glasgow, organizers said Thursday.

The Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the Oct. 4 gathering, sponsored by the British and Italian governments, is a “no-brainer” for the Holy See given Pope Francis’ frequent calls to better protect the Earth.

Gallagher said Francis would likely participate in the Vatican event, but he declined to confirm whether Francis would also travel to Glasgow to make an in-person appeal to world leaders to save the planet and those who are most vulnerable to climate change: Indigenous groups and the poor.

Britain is due to host COP26, the follow-on conference after the Paris climate accord of 2015, which aims to keep the increase in average temperatures worldwide “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), compared with pre-industrial levels. Italy, which holds the G-20 presidency, is hosting a series of run-up initiatives ahead of the Glasgow summit.

British Ambassador Sally Axworthy told reporters at a Vatican briefing Thursday that faith leaders had made an important contribution to the Paris accord, noting Francis’ own 2015 encyclical on the environment. In the document, Francis denounced the “perverse” global economic model that had exploited the Earth’s natural resources for profit, at the expense of the poor.

Axworthy declined to identify which religious leaders would attend the Oct. 4 meeting, noting the coronavirus pandemic and size of the event would limit participation. But she said the list covered a broad number of faiths from around the globe.

Scientists say that any rise in global temperatures beyond 2 degrees Celsius could have a devastating impact on large parts of the world, raising sea levels, stoking tropical storms and worsening droughts and floods.

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