Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, had a lot to say about climate change, and the importance of the Paris climate agreement, in his May 24 meeting with President Donald Trump and his top staff members.
Unfortunately, the president did not go along with the Vatican’s thinking when he announced two weeks later that the United States would not honor its commitment to the agreement.
We are profoundly dismayed by this development.
As Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed throughout his papacy – starting with his first encyclical Laudato Si, and in his 2015 address to the United Nations and in other speeches – we are all called to protect God’s gift of this Earth as our common home.
The United States, as a world leader, should be leading the effort to protect the planet.
Instead, our president apparently made a political calculation designed to appeal to his base, seeming to forget that he was elected to represent the entire country and to ensure that our values and influence remain strong around the globe.
The Paris agreement is far from perfect. It sets nation-by-nation goals for reducing greenhouse gases, for instance, but does not require a firm commitment from signatory countries to actually achieve those goals.
But the agreement is critical in that it articulates a shared commitment to mitigating global warming by virtually every country in the world, and provides a framework by which to carry out that goal.
With Trump’s announcement, the United States joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries not part of the agreement.
Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, called the president’s June 1 decision “not to honor the U.S. commitment” to the Paris agreement “deeply troubling.”
“The Scriptures affirm the value of caring for creation and caring for each other in solidarity. The Paris agreement is an international accord that promotes these values,” he said in a statement released minutes after the decision was announced.
“President Trump’s decision will harm the people of the United States and the world, especially the poorest, most vulnerable communities,” he said.
The U.S. bishops, who had released an earlier statement that urged Trump not to pull out of the accord, are just some of those expressing dismay. Leaders of numerous Catholic organizations joined a broad cross section of U.S. society and world leaders and organizations, including corporate CEOs, in decrying the decision.
The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano worried that Trump’s move could have a geopolitical “domino effect,” leading other countries to withdraw and dismantle what has already been achieved.
“A new world order is on the line,” the newspaper article said.
Indeed it is. That’s why we wholeheartedly agree with the leaders of 11 Catholic organizations who called on Trump to reconsider his action. The Catholic Church recognizes, they said, that climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution.
And the Paris agreement, even with its flaws, forces all of us to look beyond our own time, to the world that the next generations will inherit.
It’s a precious legacy, and it’s ours to build.