Church leaders call for compensation and climate justice

by Fr. Shay Cullen

Campaigners marched through Edinburgh as part of Global Day of Action for climate justice during the UN Climate Conference COP27 in Egypt. | Photo by Friends of the Earth Scotland via Wikimedia Commons

The environmental conference on the climate crisis called COP 27 in Egypt closed last week, and the voice of the Catholic Church calling for climate justice and restitution payments for the loss and damage caused by the industrial nations against the poor was heard. Many hard-hearted rich industrial countries refuse to admit and accept their responsibility and liability for causing the climate crises.

These are the powerful hidden forces of the industry that capture government departments, compromise, bribe politicians, and bend them to their will. Their will is for all to deny the climate crisis and leave the world as it is, consuming fossil fuel non-stop. The planet is heading for a cliff at full speed, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, with the deniers and obstructers’ foot hard down on the accelerator. The tipping point of no return will soon be reached when the heating cycle of the planet continues indefinitely. The experts say that life on earth will be unbearable for creatures, plants, and humans.

According to Archbishop Nicolas Thévenin, Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt and deputy head of the Holy See’s delegation, paying reparations for harm done to developing nations is an urgent matter of conscience. He said that the rich industrial nations must pay compensation for polluting the planet and damaging the lives and environment of everyone else. In other undiplomatic words, the rich countries must stand up and pay up.

“It is imperative that we build bridges of solidarity. Those who are most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change are urgently calling for real support in this moment of crisis.” He said, “to ignore them [those affected by climate crisis] would be a failure of conscience.”

Pope Francis in Laudato Si teaches that humans must save the environment and the planet from the destructive forces of irresponsible governments and industry that cause global warming and worldwide disasters.

The damage to small countries from floods, typhoons, and drought is immense. It is brought upon them by irresponsible governments that approve coal and oil power stations and are paying oil companies a trillion dollars in subsidies to explore more oil and gas. This is extreme hypocrisy and contradicts their statements in the past and today at COP 27, where they vow to reduce CO2 and methane levels in the atmosphere. They are increasing the emissions of CO2.

The Philippines has 28 polluting coal-fired plants, industry moguls, some government cronies, and politicians under their influence demanding to build 20 more coal plants. Public opinion is steadfast against any more and clamors for free renewable power from nature. The tycoons and government must invest in low-cost renewable energy generating sources like wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and biomass. Oil companies worldwide are among the worst in causing CO2 and toxic contamination.

The Papal encyclical has inspired many to join The Laudato Si Movement (LSM) of committed lay people, priests, religious, and hopefully bishops. Working with many organizations, they are committed to saving the planet by raising awareness and inspiring action to reduce global warming and CO2 emissions.

“The damage to small countries from floods, typhoons, and drought is immense. It is brought upon them by irresponsible governments that approve coal and oil power stations and are paying oil companies a trillion dollars in subsidies to explore more oil and gas.”

The objectives are “To urge political, business, and social leaders to commit to ambitious climate action to solve this urgent crisis and keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius (relative to pre-industrial levels). They can be found at

The one group they overlooked to mention by name is the bishops of the world. They must be inspired, motivated, and challenged to act and help save the creation from global warming. Sadly, not all bishops in the USA support Pope Francis’s stand in Laudato Si. According to research by Creighton University in Nebraska, many are silent, and some are misleading about climate change.

It is a matter of faith, too, as Jesus taught that truth, goodness, love, and action for justice will overcome evil. The willful pollution and causing a climate crisis against the creation are evil. We must act. As St. James said, “Faith without action is dead” (James 2:26). When people act together to do good and help each other, that is faith in action.

If bishops worldwide took up the call of Pope Francis and began their own environmental-changing project in their diocese, planting at least 1,000 tree saplings and caring for them, that would be a great contribution. They could offer a prize for the best effort. They could teach by example and encourage every parish to have its own tree-planting project.

The bishops and priests can roll up their sleeves and get out of the comfort of their palaces, rectories, and cloisters and lead the people in planting trees. It’s a powerful way to teach the Gospel values and inspire and unite a parish. Action for climate justice is a great encouragement to the youth and the next generation so that they will see life-giving forests. If bishops are called leaders, then they should lead by example. In the Philippines, a few brave, courageous bishops have stood for human rights and justice, sacrificed themselves for the poor and exploited, and got arrested and charged. We need many more bishops to build faith, follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth, and courageously take a stand for the environment.

The forests give life, oxygen, water, and protection from storms and landslides. Trees are great absorbers and digesters of CO2. They give off clean, healthy oxygen in return. Planting trees is an action that communities and school children can do together. If the bishops and priests in a diocese were to join them in a tree-planting project, the people would not faint in shock. They would applaud and be inspired to do even more to save the “common home.” This year, instead of buying a cut tree for Christmas, plant one instead.

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