“COP28”: the Youth Ministry Sector and DBI invite you to pray for COP28 and the Pope

Today, Thursday 30 November, the “COP28” (28th Conference of the Parties) begins in Dubai, in the UAE, which will last until 12 December: an important climate conference attended by representatives from over 190 countries of the world and 200 private companies and civil society organisations. For the occasion, the Sector for Youth Ministry of the Salesian Congregation and “Don Bosco International” (DBI), the body that represents the Salesians of Don Bosco at the institutions of the European Union, join the prayers of Pope Francis so that this meeting is not only an event, but produces important commitments with lasting and sustainable effects for the planet and for all humanity. In addition, they also invite you to pray for the Holy Father who, for health reasons, will not be able to attend the meeting in person, as initially planned.

The Youth Ministry Sector and the DBI in their joint communique say the following:

We are aware of the scientific data made known by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in its latest report (2022):

–       Human-induced climate change, including the most frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts, losses and damage related to nature and people, which go beyond natural climate variability. Across sectors and regions, the most vulnerable people and systems have been disproportionately affected.

–       The vulnerability of ecosystems and people varies by region; approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts highly vulnerable to climate change; human and ecosystem vulnerability travel together.

–       Global warming, reaching +1.5°C in the short term, would cause an inevitable increase in multiple risks to ecosystems and humans. The level of risk will also depend on concurrent short-term trends. Actions aimed at limiting global warming to about +1.5°C would substantially reduce expected losses and damage to human systems and ecosystems, compared to higher levels of warming, but cannot eliminate them altogether.

–       Beyond 2040 and depending on the level of global warming, climate change will pose numerous risks to nature and humans. Biodiversity loss, damage and ecosystem transformation are already key risks for each region, but will continue to increase with each increase in global warming. Risks to physical water availability and other water-related risks will continue to increase in the medium and long term in all regions examined, with a higher risk at higher global warming levels.

–       The impacts and risks of climate change are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to manage. Multiple climate-related hazards will occur simultaneously and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in increased complexity and cascading risks across sectors and regions.

–       The progress made so far in planning, adaptation and implementation in all regions and across all sectors is generating multiple benefits. However, strategies, to be effective, must be long-term.

There are feasible and effective adaptation options that can reduce risks to people and nature. The feasibility of implementing short-term adaptation options varies across sectors and regions. The effectiveness of adaptation to reduce climate risk will decrease with increasing warming. Integrated, multi-sectoral solutions that address social inequalities, climate risk differentiated and responses across all areas will increase the feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation across multiple sectors.

We appeal to what Pope Francis expressed in his latest apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum and we want to commit ourselves to making what the Pope wishes come true:

4. Climate Conferences: Progress and Failures

44. For several decades now, representatives of more than 190 countries have met periodically to address the issue of climate change. The 1992 Rio de Janeiro Conference led to the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty that took effect when the necessary ratification on the part of the signatories concluded in 1994. These States meet annually in the Conference of the Parties (COP), the highest decision-making body. Some of these Conferences were failures, like that of Copenhagen (2009), while others made it possible to take important steps forward, like COP3 in Kyoto (1997).  Its significant Protocol set the goal of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by 5% with respect to 1990. The deadline was the year 2012, but this, clearly, was not achieved.

46. Afterwards, it was proposed to create a mechanism regarding the loss and damage caused by climate change, which recognizes as those chiefly responsible the richer countries and seeks to compensate for the loss and damage that climate change produces in the more vulnerable countries. It was not yet a matter of financing the “adaptation” of those countries, but of compensating them for damage already incurred. This question was the subject of important discussions at various Conferences.

47.  COP21 in Paris (2015) represented another significant moment, since it generated an agreement that involved everyone. It can be considered as a new beginning, given the failure to meet the goals previously set.

48. The Paris Agreement presents a broad and ambitious objective: to keep the increase of average global temperatures to under 2  C with respect to preindustrial levels, and with the aim of decreasing them to 1.5  C. Work is still under way to consolidate concrete procedures for monitoring and to facilitate general criteria for comparing the objectives of the different countries. This makes it difficult to achieve a more objective (quantitative) evaluation of the real results.

49.  Following several Conferences with scarce results, and the disappointment of COP25 in Madrid (2019), it was hoped that this inertia would be reversed at COP26 in Glasgow (2021).

50. COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh (2022) was from the outset threatened by the situation created by the invasion of Ukraine, which caused a significant economic and energy crisis. Carbon use increased and everyone sought to have sufficient supplies. Developing countries regarded access to energy and prospects for development as an urgent priority. There was an evident openness to recognizing the fact that combustible fuels still provide 80% of the world’s energy, and that their use continues to increase.

52.  Today we can continue to state that, “the accords have been poorly implemented, due to lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of noncompliance. The principles which they proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation”. Also, that “international negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility”.

5. What to Expect from COP28 in Dubai?

53. The United Arab Emirates will host the next Conference of the Parties (COP28). It is a country of the Persian Gulf known as a great exporter of fossil fuels, although it has made significant investments in renewable energy sources. Meanwhile, gas and oil companies are planning new projects there, with the aim of further increasing their production. To say that there is nothing to hope for would be suicidal, for it would mean exposing all humanity, especially the poorest, to the worst impacts of climate change.

54. If we are confident in the capacity of human beings to transcend their petty interests and to think in bigger terms, we can keep hoping that COP28 will allow for a decisive acceleration of energy transition, with effective commitments subject to ongoing monitoring. This Conference can represent a change of direction, showing that everything done since 1992 was in fact serious and worth the effort, or else it will be a great disappointment and jeopardize whatever good has been achieved thus far.

55. Despite the many negotiations and agreements, global emissions continue to increase. […] Yet, the necessary transition towards clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels, is not progressing at the necessary speed. Consequently, whatever is being done risks being seen only as a ploy to distract attention.

56. We must move beyond the mentality of appearing to be concerned but not having the courage needed to produce substantial changes. We know that at this pace in just a few years we will surpass the maximum recommended limit of 1.5  C and shortly thereafter even reach 3  C, with a high risk of arriving at a critical point.

58. Once and for all, let us put an end to the irresponsible derision that would present this issue as something purely ecological, “green”, romantic, frequently subject to ridicule by economic interests. Let us finally admit that it is a human and social problem on any number of levels. For this reason, it calls for involvement on the part of all.

59. If there is sincere interest in making COP28 a historic event that honours and ennobles us as human beings, then one can only hope for binding forms of energy transition that meet three conditions: that they be efficient, obligatory and readily monitored. This, in order to achieve the beginning of a new process marked by three requirements: that it be drastic, intense and count on the commitment of all. That is not what has happened so far, and only a process of this sort can enable international politics to recover its credibility, since only in this concrete manner will it be possible to reduce significantly carbon dioxide levels and to prevent even greater evils over time.

60. May those taking part in the Conference be strategists capable of considering the common good and the future of their children, more than the short-term interests of certain countries or businesses. In this way, may they demonstrate the nobility of politics and not its shame.  To the powerful, I can only repeat this question: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power, only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”To the powerful I dare repeat this question: “Why do you want to maintain a power today that will be remembered for its inability to intervene when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”.

We invite all members of the Congregation, the Salesian Family and related organisations to pray that:

– the representatives of humanity decide on a rapid and equitable transition to end the era of fossil fuels, putting an end to the exploration and development of new projects, and redirecting funding and investments towards clean and renewable energies;

– each country decides to shoulder its responsibility by reducing emissions and therefore the additional losses and damages that are already being experienced in developing countries.

– governments do not hide behind carbon markets which produce questionable and ineffective solutions from the point of view of emissions.

–  rich countries offer resources to developing countries so that they have access to clean energy, can adapt to the increasingly hot and dry climate, are compensated for the impacts to which it is not possible to adapt and for the damage and losses received.

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