VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) – The Vatican, in responding to its own call that mankind become a more aware and more active caretaker of the earth, will take a step to lift its carbon footprint and become the first entirely carbon neutral sovereign state in the world.
In a brief July 5 ceremony here, the Vatican declared that it had accepted a proposal to create a new Vatican climate forest in Europe that will offset all of the Vatican City State’s carbon dioxide omissions for this year.
“Environmental protection,” said Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, “is not a political issue.”
“It is not enough to have a simple commitment for a few people. Instead it is necessary, as underlined by his holiness, to have the dawn of a new culture, of new attitudes and a new mode of living that makes man aware of his place a caretaker of the earth.”
Planktos/KlimaFa, a climate ecorestoration company, made the donation of forestland in Hungary’s Bukk National Park to create the new Vatican climate forest.
“I am honored to receive this donation,” Cardinal Poupard said. “In this way, the Vatican will do its small part in contributing to the elimination of polluting emissions from carbon dioxide which is threatening the survival of the planet.”
A “carbon footprint” is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted through the combustion of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide is recognized as a greenhouse gas, of which increasing levels in the atmosphere are linked to global warming and climate change. As plant life gives off oxygen, the planting of forests is seen as a way of mitigating the environmental impact of the consumption of natural resources.
"As the holy father, Pope Benedict XVI, had recently stated, the international community needs to respect and encourage a ‘green culture,’ characterized by ethical values,” Cardinal Poupard said.
“The Book of Genesis tells us of a beginning in which God placed man as guardian over the earth to make it fruitful. When man forgets that he is a faithful servant of this earth, it becomes a desert that threatens the survival of all creation,” he added.
"The Holy See's increasingly creative environmental leadership is both insightful and profound,” said Russ George, Planktos chief executive officer and KlimaFa managing director. “Not only is the Vatican steadily reducing its carbon footprint with energy efficiency and solar power, its choice of new mixed growth forests to offset the balance of its emissions shows a deep commitment to planetary stewardship as well. It eloquently makes the point that ecorestoration is a fitting climate change solution for a culture of life."
"We believe this climate forest initiative clearly reflects the Vatican's deep commitment to both environmental healing and the welfare of the poor,” said David Gazdag, KlimaFa's managing director. “Besides their local ecological and global climatic benefits, these projects offer many rewarding new eco-forestry jobs to struggling rural communities and increasing eco-tourism employment opportunities as these beautiful woodlands mature."
The dimensions of the new Vatican climate forest will be determined by the Vatican’s 2007 energy usage and the success of its current emission reduction efforts.
Planktos/KlimaFa also announced that it has committed to work with the Vatican and the Pontifical Council of Culture to develop methods to calculate the carbon emissions of individual Catholic churches and offer ecorestoration options to turn their carbon footprints green.
The announcement came less than two months after the Vatican told member countries of the United Nations that the world community must address the threat posed by global warming and build more sustainable economies or face the continued drift toward tensions, conflicts and a crisis in the very existence of peoples.
In an May 10 statement to the U.N. Economic and Social Council’s Commission on Sustainable Development on “Turning Political Commitments into Action, Working together in Partnership,” Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio of the Holy See’s permanent mission to the U.N., stressed that the scientific evidence for global warming and mankind’s role in the increase of greenhouse gasses “becomes ever more unimpeachable” and its effects already impacting the world community.
“The consequences of climate change are being felt not only in the environment, but in the entire socio-economic system, Archbishop Migliore said, noting that “such activity has a profound relevance, not just for the environment, but in ethical, economic, social and political terms as well.”
Global warming, he said, “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.”
The issues surrounding climate change are far-reaching, the Vatican nuncio said, pointing to the connection between it and the drive to acquire and consume energy and water resources and protecting human health and the environment.
“The earth is our common heritage and we have a grave and far-reaching responsibility to ourselves and to future generations,” he said.
The international community, Archbishop Migliore said, must come to terms to establish 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 nuncio spoke with some urgency, noting that the U.N. Security Council recently dealt with the relationship of energy, security and climate change.
“We are already witnessing struggles for the control of strategic resources such as oil and fresh water, both of which are becoming ever scarcer,” he said.
“If we refuse to build sustainable economies now, we will continue to drift towards more tensions and conflicts over resources,” Archbishop Migliore warned, pointing to “many of the most vulnerable societies already facing energy problems” “and to the threatened “very existence of coastal peoples and small island states.”
Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue in his World Peace Day 2007 message.
In the wide-ranging "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace," dated Jan. 1 and released Dec. 8, Benedict tied “the ecology of nature” with “human ecology” and “social ecology,” noting the “inseparable link between peace with creation and peace among men.”
“Disregard for the environment always harms human coexistence,” the pope said. “There is an inseparable link between peace with creation and peace among men.”
Concerning the environment, he pointed specifically to “the increasingly serious problem of energy supplies” and to the “unprecedented race for available resources” by some nations and blockage to resources impacting the development of other nations.
“The destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth's resources cause grievances, conflicts and wars, precisely because they are the consequences of an inhumane concept of development,” the pope said.
“Indeed, if development were limited to the technical-economic aspect, obscuring the moral-religious dimension, it would not be an integral human development, but a one-sided distortion which would end up by unleashing man's destructive capacities,” he said.
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.