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Vatican's Address to U.N. on Climate Change

"Will Impact First and Foremost the Poorest and Weakest"

NEW YORK, MAY 13, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, delivered May 10 to the 15th session of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development of the Economic and Social Council on "Turning Political Commitments Into Action, Working Together in Partnership."

* * *

Mr. Chairman,

While my delegation congratulates you and your bureau on your appointment, it sincerely hopes that all delegations will work with the greatest flexibility to achieve as much as we can in this policy year.

The debate during this session and the work of the preparatory committee and last year's Commission on Sustainable Development have all demonstrated the strongly interconnected nature of the four themes chosen for this cycle, and how they may have ample repercussions both on national and international security and on the capacity of the international community to confront seriously the problems of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The interconnections become even stronger when we consider that, ultimately, the earth is our common heritage and we have a grave and far-reaching responsibility to ourselves and to future generations for the actions we are due to take here. It should be added that the need for joint action at the international level does not lessen the responsibility of individual states.

Mr. Chairman, the question of energy is rapidly becoming one of the key questions of the entire international agenda, as all of us struggle to assemble a common, global, long-term energy strategy, capable of satisfying legitimate short- and medium-term energy requirements, ensuring energy security, protecting human health and the environment, and establishing precise commitments to address the question of climate change.

The scientific evidence for global warming and for humanity's role in the increase of greenhouse gasses becomes ever more unimpeachable, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings are going to suggest; and such activity has a profound relevance, not just for the environment, but in ethical, economic, social and political terms as well. The consequences of climate change are being felt not only in the environment, but in the entire socioeconomic system and, as seen in the findings of numerous reports already available, they will impact first and foremost the poorest and weakest who, even if they are among the least responsible for global warming, are the most vulnerable because they have limited resources or live in areas at greater risk. We need only think of the small island developing states as one example among many. Many of the most vulnerable societies, already facing energy problems, rely upon agriculture -- the very sector most likely to suffer from climatic shifts.

Thus, in order to address the double challenge of climate change and the need for ever greater energy resources, we will have to change our present model from one of the heedless pursuit of economic growth in the name of development, toward a model which heeds the consequences of its actions and is more respectful toward the creation we hold in common, coupled with an integral human development for present and future generations.

The complexity of the promotion of sustainable development is evident to all; there are, however, certain underlying principles which can direct research toward adequate and lasting solutions. Humanity must become increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology. Experience shows that disregard for the environment harms human coexistence, while at the same time it becomes clearer that there is a positive link to be made between peace with creation and peace among nations.

Not so long ago, the Security Council had a meeting to discuss the relationship between energy, security and climate. While not everyone agrees upon the discussion of such material in the Security Council, the sobering fact is that we are already witnessing struggles for the control of strategic resources such as oil and fresh water, both of which are becoming ever scarcer. If we refuse to build sustainable economies now, we will continue to drift toward more tensions and conflicts over resources, to say nothing of threatening the very existence of coastal peoples and small island states.

Recently, we have heard of economies that have managed to grow while actually reducing their consumption of energy. Surely this success holds out hope that our current economic model does not always oblige us to use more and more energy in order to grow. Economic growth does not have to mean greater consumption. From the standpoint of a sustainable economy, it does however mean that we will need technology, ingenuity, determined political will and common sense. Importantly, it will also demand technology transfer to developing countries, to the benefit of the entire global community.

But even technology, its transfer and political will to collaborate at the international level are not enough: to all that we must add national education schemes that will lead all of us without exception to approach our daily patterns of consumption and production in a very different way and to demand a similar change throughout construction, transport, businesses and other institutions.

Through such education, states can help their citizens grasp the urgency of what must be done, teaching them in turn to expect and demand a very different approach to their own consumption and that around them.

Worldwide, unprecedented ecological changes are already taking place and none of us can foresee fully the consequences of man's industrial activity over the recent centuries. Remedies are not beyond our ingenuity, but we should however be careful not to choose a path that will make things worse, especially for the poor. We cannot simply uninvent the modern world, but there is still time to use technology and education to promote universally sustainable development before it is too late.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[Original text: English; text adapted]

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