UNITED NATIONS (Catholic Online) – The international community must commit to sustainable resource management policies that place the needs of the human family and protection of the environment above commercial and industrial concerns, the Vatican's representative to the United Nations told a May 11 session of the U.N. Economic and Social Council’s Commission on Sustainable Development here.
Progress toward global sustainable development pales in comparison to “a sobering picture” of the world’s environment, said Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the international body.
“Essential improvement in living standards for all, while assuring our world’s environmental future,” he said, will only occur if there is an integrated international environmental and developmental policy coupled with “committed political follow through.”
In his remarks, Archbishop Migliore also pointed “the serious destruction of the human environment,” the diminishing of water resources, food security, global warming and renewal energy.
He said that, while many are “rightly worried” about the “irrational destruction of the natural environment,” too little attention is focused on protecting “the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology.”
The human person, the archbishop said, should be at “the center of environmental concerns” in the affairs of nations, corporations and individuals, while there is a simultaneous promotion of the urgency of “human responsibility for the Earth.”
“As the essential symbiosis of life on the planet becomes plain,” he said, “there is already a growing acknowledgement that good environmental policies are by extension good people policies, too.”
He pointed to the critical importance of water in the effort of building sustainable development and the dire predictions for the global community in access to that resource.
“This is already a humanitarian and environmental crisis, as well as a question of social justice, Archbishop Migliore said, noting that 34,000 people die every day due to a lack of clean water and that 1.5 billion people lack such access today, a figure that may double by 2025.
“Within 20 years, the reserves of water per person will be a third of what they were in 1950 and, by 2025, a third of the world’s nations will have catastrophically low levels of water,” he said. “Encouraging change in consumption patterns and in increasing access to water supply and sanitation is also a matter of developmental common sense, since both yield very high rates of return, making them extremely attractive from a social investment standpoint.”
The Vatican representative pointed to the reality of global warming and its relation to the burning of fossil fuels and the use of other pollutants. “We can no longer pretend that human activity has little or no impact” on the worldwide “changing climatic conditions,” he said.
“The Earth’s climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era,” Archbishop Migliore said. “Even if greenhouse gas emissions were to be stabilized at present levels – an unlikely eventually as things stand – the global warming trend and sea-level rise would continue for hundreds of years, due to the atmospheric lifetime of some greenhouse gases and the long timescales on which the deep ocean adjusts to climate change.”
While noting the “legitimate priority needs of developing countries for the achievement of sustained economic growth and the eradication of poverty,” the archbishop said that these goals “cannot be achieved at any price.”
The international community must transform its global energy systems from traditional to renewable forms, he said. “As current approaches are causing serious harm to human health, the Earth’s climate and ecological systems on which all life depends,” he said, “the development of renewables continues to be a human, ecological, economic and strategic necessity and should have a priority in public research projects.”
With more than 1.6 billion people lacking access to electricity, “improving access to reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy services is a major challenge to poverty eradication,” Archbishop Migliore added.
He singled out the combustion engine as the engine behind the large proportion of worldwide energy consumption, and major source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, urging its “long overdue” replacement with “clean, renewable alternatives.”
“Sustainable patterns,” he said, are “essential to our common future.”
“The dovetailing of environmental and developmental concerns with commercial and industrial policymaking will surely lead to a safer, more prosperous future for all,” he added.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.