On June 18, Pope Francis released his long-awaited Encyclical on the environment, a groundbreaking letter declaring climate change one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Dan Kammen, a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner and expert for the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), was a contributor to the drafting of the Vatican’s document. The Pope’s leadership and the knowledge of this ECPA expert are forging the path towards a sustainable future in the Americas.
“The Pope’s support in the fight against climate change is potentially life-saving for millions of at-risk people in impoverished communities all over the world,” said Dr. Kammen. The content of the Pope’s Encyclical may be environmentally game-changing as it lays out the environmental, social, economic and political consequences of climate change – consequences that are disproportionately felt by the world’s poorest people. This letter is particularly important for the region, given that five out of the ten countries most affected by climate change are in Latin American and the Caribbean.
The Laudato Si Encyclical proposes changes in lifestyles and alternatives to curb global warming. Pope Francis called on Dr. Kammen, professor at the University of California at Berkeley and global authority on climate change, to advise him on renewable energy and climate change issues in his letter. These issues harmoniously blend with the Latin American Pope’s Encyclical, given that there are 400 million people living without access to electricity. Renewable energy is an effective option for this population, as it connects the most impoverished communities, while respecting the planet.
In his extremely clear message, the Pope declares climate change one of humanity’s greatest challenges and that caring for the planet – our common home – is a moral obligation. This spiritual component is, perhaps, what was lacking from the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties, where an agreement was elusive. This component will, however, be present at the Paris conference in December when the Pope participates for the first time.
The Pope’s presence at this conference could significantly change the trajectory of the debates – the debate will cease to be a mere discussion between conservatives and liberals and those claiming that climate change is the result of human activity and those rejecting this theory. His presence also brings to bear the premise that the wellbeing of the planet is a right for all, regardless of ideology.
Dr. Dan Kammen, served as a Senior ECPA Fellow, an Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas initiative administered by Partners of the Americas.