While world leaders are preparing for a weekend full of international summits, Pope Francis lent his voice to the rallying cry, urging leaders to take decisive action for climate change and COVID-19 recovery.
The Group of 20 (G20) Summit in Rome — an economic forum that gathers the world’s leading economies to make pledges toward global health, equity, and climate change — begins on Saturday and will be immediately followed by the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26), which kicks off Sunday, Oct. 31.
Ahead of the international conferences, the Pope recorded a message on Friday for BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day that showed the importance of immediate action in the face of the dual crises of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed our deep vulnerability and raised numerous doubts and concerns about our economic systems and the way we organize our societies,” said the Pope in his call to action from the Vatican.
He went on to urge world leaders to respond to these challenges with humanitarian efforts and sent a clear message on the importance of unity and cooperation.
“We can confront these crises by retreating into isolationism, protectionism, and exploitation; or we can see in them a real chance for change, a genuine moment of conversion — and not simply in a spiritual sense,” advised the Pope. “The most important lesson we can take from these crises is our need to build together, so that there will no longer be any borders, barriers, or political walls for us to hide behind.”
After the broadcast, the Pope met with US President Biden to discuss global COVID-19 vaccination efforts, wrongful detainment, and climate change, said the White House in a brief statement. The meeting between the two leaders kicks off the start of a jam-packed schedule for heads of states convening in Europe.
It was an honor to meet with Pope Francis again at the Vatican today. I thanked His Holiness for his advocacy for the world’s poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution, and lauded his leadership in fighting the climate crisis and ending the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/PGF5axSK4X— President Biden (@POTUS) October 29, 2021
This year’s G20 Summit is a pivotal moment for world leaders to address the urgent issues of COVID-19 recovery efforts, famine, global poverty, and climate change. The summit, which wraps up on Sunday, will be the prelude to the highly anticipated COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. At COP26, countries around the world will take on the worsening emergency of climate change in what may be the last chance to commit to effective change before irreversible consequences set in.
“These crises present us with the need to take radical decisions that are not always easy. At the same time, moments of difficulty like these also present opportunities that we must not waste,” urged the Pope.
Pope Francis, originally from Argentina, assumed the papacy as the head of the Catholic Church in 2013, and has since ushered in a new era of outspoken advocacy for the Vatican, sparking dialogues around some of the world’s most pressing issues. In the past, he has taken strong stances on the fronts of refugee acceptance and immigration, political corruption, and has shown a particular passion for the climate crisis.
In 2017 he took an especially indignant stance against climate change denial, criticizing the lack of cooperation between global leaders to address the crisis.
“They decide and history will judge those decisions,” the Pope said to reporters while flying over areas of the US and Mexico affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and José.
Last year, the Pope spoke out against climate injustice and inequality while condemning waste and promoting sustainability. Since ascending to papacy, he has offered a unique partnership between science and religion, championing compassionate approaches to global issues.
Climate change can be faced with a renewed sense of shared responsibility for our world, and an effective solidarity based on justice, a sense of our common destiny and a recognition of the unity of our human family in God’s plan for the world. #Faiths4COP26— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) October 29, 2021
The Pope has also been a strong advocate for vaccine equity and joined Global Citizen’s VAX LIVE campaign in May of this year to call on countries and pharmaceutical companies to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents in order to promote equal access for the world’s most vulnerable.
The interconnected issues of COVID-19, hunger, and the climate crisis will take center stage at this year’s G20 Summit. At both the G20 and COP26 conferences, the world’s most powerful leaders have the chance to save billions of lives and defend the planet by making resolute commitments to fixing broken economic systems and taking bold actions to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
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