On Monday, Pope Francis urged world leaders to remain steadfast in their commitment to fighting climate change, requesting that they continue to implement international environmental agreements as quickly as possible.
During a speech addressing a group of international scientists, including theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, the pope warned against turning away from climate pacts for political reasons — a thinly veiled reference to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to withdraw the United States from the historic U.N. Paris climate agreement.
“The ‘distraction’ or delay in implementing global agreements on the environment shows that politics has become submissive to a technology and economy which seek profit above all else,” Francis said, according to a Reuters report.
Since assuming the role of pope, Francis has been a staunch proponent of environmental action. In the summer of 2015, he released an encyclical — one of the highest forms of official teaching that a pope can produce — on the environment. The result was a sweeping document, nearly 200 pages long, which flatly rejected conservative Christian justifications for exploiting the planet and defended environmental action on religious and moral grounds.
According to Reuters, Francis’ speech on Monday struck largely the same tone. He told the audience that humans could not think of themselves as “owners and masters of nature, authorized to plunder it without any consideration of its hidden potential and laws of development” and called for “an ecological conversion capable of supporting and promoting sustainable development.”
Francis has been a supporter of the Paris climate agreement since it was finalized in December of 2015, and urged world leaders to join the agreement almost as soon as it was signed last year. The BBC even reported that Francis might have had a hand in pushing the deal through himself, allegedly calling the president of Nicaragua to convince him to sign the deal.
The pope was also a vocal critic of Trump’s rhetoric during the presidential campaign. In February, Francis criticized the tenor of Trump’s campaign, suggesting that Trump’s visions did not mesh well with the Christian faith.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said.
Trump fired back, saying that “for a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”
Trump has pledged to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement, which he has called “bad for business.” He has also falsely claimed that the deal allows “foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use.”
In reality, the Paris deal is built upon a series of nationally determined contributions, which allows each country to plot their own course for emissions reductions. Proponents of the deal also argue that it will likely unlock massive amounts of investment in clean energy, helping to revitalize economies and spur job growth in countries that remain within the agreement. As Joe Romm pointed out in an earlier piece on ThinkProgress, the Paris climate deal is a “ridiculously good deal” for the United States — it gives the country the chance to avoid massive amounts of costly damage while pledging the minimum effort.
The president-elect, who once penned a book titled The Art of the Deal, does not seem to recognize what a truly great deal the Paris agreement is, both for the United States and the world. And if his previous responses to papal advice are any indication, he’ll likely fail to recognize the pope’s plea for climate action, as well.