“COVID-19 and climate change merit equal engagement”, Jesuits have stressed, urging governments in the UK, Europe and Africa to “leave no-one behind!” in the pandemic social and economic recovery.

– Pandemic “luring governments into diverting attention and resources away from climate change”

Jesuits in Europe and Africa launched a major climate change awarness campaign November 19, on the day the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference was due to close in Glasgow before it was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.

The Jesuits’ action consisted of one letter to UK PM Boris Johnson and another to the heads of the European Commission and African Union, Ursula von der Leyen and Cyril Ramaphosa respectively, to alert them to the danger that the postponement of the COP Conference to 2021 “will lure governments into diverting attention and resources away from climate change towards focussing on the ongoing global pandemic”.

Along with those letters, the Jesuits also included a detailed scientific paper backing up their appeals, in which they insisted that “while COVID-19 remains a clear and present danger to the health and security of the world’s people, climate change is no less of a pressing crisis”.

Calling attention to Pope Francis’ constant teaching not only that “everything is connected” (Laudato si’) but also that “everyone is connected” (Fratelli tutti), the Jesuits highlighted that “climate change is exacerbating the already existing social, economic, and environmental harms that COVID-19 has exacerbated further, and our ongoing response to the pandemic cannot ignore this”.

– “Climate change did not take a break during the pandemic. Rather, it seems to be accelerating”

The crux of the Jesuits’ campaign in the UK, Europe and Africa was to stress the “equal urgency of international action” on climate change just as much as on the pandemic.

The Jesuits set out a series of principles justifying such a course of action, including that “climate change did not take a break” but rather has accelerated during the pandemic, and that consequently it is still and even more so “the poorest and most vulnerable who are bearing the brunt” of our rapidly overheating world.

However, as if the twin challenges of the pandemic and climate change were not enough, the Jesuits also drew attention to two other troublesome facets of the one social, economic and environmental emergency shaking the world today – namely, the debt and human rights crises in developing countries.

COVID-19, global warming, the sovereign debt crisis and human rights abuses require strong leadership from the UK ahead of the COP26 Conference in 2021, the Jesuits said, including leveraging the US-UK ‘Special Relationship’ “to encourage Washington to reengage” in the fight against climate change.

Of the African Union and the European Union, the religious continued, the multifaceted crises gripping our world today require the recognition of the “ethical imbalance” inherent “in asking a continent which produces less than 5% of global carbon emissions to bear the brunt of climate change”.

“EU member states, as key stakeholders in international financial organizations, including the World Bank and the IMF, can use their influence to press for resolution of Africa’s debt crisis”, the Jesuits also recalled.

– “Time is running out: tipping points are fast approaching”

“We need a social and ecological transformation to tackle the multiple crises of our time”, the religious stressed in a press release accompanying the publication of their letters to politicians.

“Africa suffers more (most?) from COVID 19 since its already existing problems of debt and poverty have been exacerbated while nothing is left to tackle the increasingly felt consequences of climate change and other plagues arising from the overuse and pollution of natural resources”, they alerted.

“Europe historically and presently belongs to the largest polluters and it has therefore to honour its commitments” on emissions, the Jesuits concluded, warning that “time is running out” and “tipping points” on the climate change crisis “are fast approaching”.

On Novena, more Church concern about climate change:

Inspired by Pope, young people appeal to political, economic leaders: “Slow down the race suffocating the earth and the weakest”

European interfaith youth sound alarm on climate crisis, “a pandemic of epic proportions”

Catholic institutions lead the way in largest joint faith-based divestment from fossil fuels

EU Bishops decry “unprecedented” Arctic warming, warn region becoming “focal point of economic and geopolitical competition”

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.