On 27 May, SDSN and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosted a meeting between Pope Francis, Climate Scientists, and more than twenty Finance Ministers to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change. In line with Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato si’ Care for our Common Home, the objective of the meeting was for climate experts and finance ministers to discuss new data and enhance awareness on climate change and sustainable development. The meeting specifically focused on the role of innovative climate financing as a critical next step to realize the Paris Agreement.

Climate change is much more than an environmental problem. It is one of the most important challenges humanity faces today, threatening gains in global development achieved in several decades as well as further progress in raising living standards and reducing poverty. Moreover, the effects of climate change stretch far beyond humanity, remaining a looming threat over all species and ecosystems at large.

In the context of the April launch of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, co-chaired by Chile and Finland, discussions taken place during this meeting provided additional perspectives for Finance Ministers to consider in their efforts to strengthen collective action on the matter. More specifically, the Coalition recently endorsed the Helsinki Principles, a set of six common principles that foster climate action, especially through the use of fiscal policy. Leading up to COP25 that will take place in Chile this December, discussions supported work geared towards the Santiago Action Plan, a set of concrete actions that will be taken to make tangible progress to tackle climate change.

The primary message carried throughout the meeting was the resounding urgency and hope for climate change action and investment. The meeting concluded in agreement to release a joint statement to articulate this endorsement which will be delivered soon.

 

Climate as a common good

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. As these gases build up in the atmosphere, they hamper the escape of heat produced by sunlight at the earth’s surface. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, n. 23.