Cardinal: If climate talks stall, pope may gently intervene

COP21 logo.
COP21 logo.

Le Bourget — If international climate talks really stall, don't be surprised if there might be an ever-so-slight intervention by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace who helped draft the pope's June encyclical on global warming, said the pontiff has "deep trust" that negotiators in Paris will get the job done. But just in case they don't, the pope might possibly send a gentle message, he said.

"If it gets to a stalemate or whatever, he may utter a statement or make a comment or whatever, but he will refrain from exercising any coercive power on the things over here, because that would not belong to his style," Turkson told The Associated Press after a press conference by Vatican officials Tuesday at the Paris climate talks.

If the pope did intervene with a gentle statement if negotiations bog down, it would "show the gravity of the situation and highlight what's at stake," said Jennifer Morgan, global climate program director for the World Resources Institute.

Joe Ware, a protestant spokesperson for Christian Aid, welcomed the remark, saying such action "would just give that final nudge to the negotiations."

Turkson said the Vatican has great interest in seeing the negotiations succeed, especially getting the world to stop using carbon power by mid-century to save the Earth, especially for the world's poorest people.

"We cannot profess love of God when we cannot love what God has made," Turkson said.

However, Turkson weighed in on a temperature goal, which could be a sticking point.

Surprisingly, Turkson said the Vatican supports the more lenient goal of limiting global warming to "2 degrees and below if it can be pushed down." That goal is 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times or about 1 degree from now, while some island nations are pushing for a tighter 1.5 degree overall goal.

The Vatican is also seriously considering joining the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, eventually signing an agreement out of Paris and then coming up with a plan to reduce emissions for the Vatican City itself, said Archbishop Bernadito Auzo, the acting head of the Vatican delegation observing climate talks.

If the Vatican went from an outside observer to a member state that "could bring some sense of the moral side of the story, which often gets lost in the talk," Morgan said.

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