BY ED WEST
THE FAILURE to address climate change is “moral apartheid”, the president of Caritas Internationalis has said.
Speaking in Durban Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of Catholic relief and development agencies, said that “just as South Africa’s apartheid era policies sought divisions along race lines, today the world’s environment and energy policies divide man from nature”.
“Don’t we realise that the climate is out of control?” he said in a Sunday homily in Emmanuel Cathedral, Durban. “How long will countless people have to go on dying before adequate decisions are taken?” After a reading from the book of Isaiah, the Honduran cardinal, who is Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, said: “It’s true that in faith we wait ‘for the new heavens and the new earth’ as the second reading told us, but this does not mean indifference or complicity with those who destroy this land where we live. ‘Living holy and saintly lives’ means living in justice with creation and the environment, and especially with the poor people who are the primary victims of this serious problem.
“In the desert John ‘cried out’ the need to prepare a way for the Lord. Today, in the desert of our planet earth, and in the desert of our hearts, the same voice is ringing out. This conference of delegates from so many countries cannot remain as a voice silenced by economic power.” At the UN conference, which was organised to secure a global agreement to replace those made at Kyoto in 1997, the cardinal said that excessive focus on money was dehumanising people and that religious communities have a duty to call attention to the importance of the human person, who is “at the centre of creation”.
Officials from nearly 200 countries are in Durban for the climate change talks, with the cardinal leading a 20strong Caritas delegation calling for a reduction of emissions by more than 40 per cent by 2020 and for an agreement on behalf of poor countries that have been severely affected by climate change.
In a panel discussion last week Cardinal Rodríguez said: “Our economic system and its search for money above all have dehumanised human beings. Religious groups have a duty to humanise them again.” The panellists, who represented Christianity, Judaism and other religions, argued that climate change was a moral issue, not just an environmental concern.
Cardinal Rodriguez said that climate talks two years ago in Copenhagen failed even to focus on the environment and instead only debated economic issues. “Our tendency to search for money is destroying the environment,” he said.
Writing in The Catholic Herald this week Lord Gummer argued that tackling climate change is a Christian imperative. The former Conservative Minister said: “The Pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury have been joined by religious leaders all over the world to call for us to act now before it is too late. There has rarely been a clearer or more consistent call.” He was responding to a speech made by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney in Westminster in October in which he expressed “deep scepticism” about manmade climate change.