There was a sense of urgency at the Vatican on Tuesday when scientists, diplomats and religious and political leaders discussed climate change and its impact on the world’s poor.
“We are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last generation that can avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at an international symposium on climate change held by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
The event came as Pope Francis prepares a keenly anticipated papal letter on the environment that he is expected to issue in June.
Ban met with the pope before the one-day conference and told reporters afterward that the pope’s encyclical will come at “a critical time”.
“Climate change is approaching much faster than one may think,” Ban said.
In September, the pope is scheduled to address the US Congress and a UN summit on sustainable development, where he is expected to reiterate his environmental message.
Francis has said climate change is “mostly” a result of human activity.
“I count on his moral voice, his moral leadership,” said Ban, who is leading efforts to come to an agreement on limiting human contributions to global warming, which will be discussed at a climate summit meeting in Paris in December.
Representatives of different religions spoke at the symposium, and a statement approved Tuesday by the participants underscored their environmental concerns.
“These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity,” it read.
“They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home.”
Ban told the assembly: “Let the world know that there is no divide whatsoever between religion and science on the issue of climate change.”
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