2015-03-10 14:46:00

Pope's leadership hailed ahead of Paris climate change summit

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’s leadership on the environment and the dangers posed by climate change will have a vital impact in the lead up to the international summit to be held in Paris next December.

That’s according to British scientist Sir David King who currently serves as  the UK’s special representative on climate change. He’s been here in the Vatican this week talking to top officials about the Pope’s forthcoming encyclical on the environment and the influence he can exert over people of all faiths and none on this critically important issue.

Because, make no mistake, Sir David sees the problem of global warming as the biggest challenge facing our world today and he’s calling on individuals, as well as world leaders, to act now to save our planet for future generations.

Philippa Hitchen sat down with him to find out about his hopes for the Paris summit and what message he was bringing to Church leaders here in the Vatican…


“2015 is probably the most important year in the history of humanity, since 1945 when we came to the end of the Second World War and the United Nations was formed,” said Sir David King, who was formerly the Chief Scientific advisor for both the governments of Tony Blair and later Gordon Brown in Britain.

Speaking about the summit of 196 government leaders which will take place in Paris in December, Sir David said “I’m reasonably optimistic that there will be an agreement at the end of the meeting this year.” “But I want to emphasise that Paris is the beginning of the next phase of the process.”, he said, adding that “We’ve got to have a collective global decision to attempt to manage this problem and I believe that climate change is a big existential challenge to our civilisation.”

Asked about the role of Pope Francis and other religious leaders on this issue of climate change, Sir David looked ahead to the Pope’s upcoming encyclical on ecology and praised the efforts that the Pope has already made. “Pope Francis has already had an impact and in the run up to the meeting in Paris I think his impact is almost immeasurable” since his message “doesn’t only go out to Catholics but to people across the world. His reach has become quite remarkable since he became Pope and I think it’s exactly what we need. There is I think a shortage of leadership on this issue, visionaries who are prepared to stand up and say what needs to be said, there’s too much caution about there’s too much concern about ‘short termism’ and in my view the Pope is moving into exactly the right position, there’s the leadership we need.”

Questioned about the position of climate sceptics, Sir David said there are some misleading statements about where the science of the issue is. The intergovernmental panel on climate change has produced a report which analyses about 10,000 publications, making it the largest report in history to be produced on a single subject. “The scientific community is saying that we know with 95% certainty that the climate change we’re seeing is due to our burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. 95% certainty from the scientific community is a pretty hefty statement.”

Finally, speaking about the development of new, sustainable energy sources, Sir David said he believed that this period of history is the most exciting period of innovation since the Industrial Revolution.

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