NewsSeptember 23, 2015

Pope Francis Starts U.S. Visit Addressing Climate Change

Brian Kahn

By Brian Kahn

Follow @blkahn

If there was any doubt that climate change was going to be on top of Pope Francis's list during his visit to the U.S., it dissipated on Wednesday morning. In remarks at the White House, the Pope called climate change “a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.”

“Climate change is a problem that can no longer be left to a future generation.” —@Pontifex#PopeInDC#ActOnClimate

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 23, 2015

The remarks kick off a six-day visit to the U.S. — Pope Francis's first time here — that includes speeches in front of a joint session of Congress and the United Nations General Assembly and highlight a continuing commitment to make climate change a central issue of his papacy.

In June, the Pope published an encyclical on climate change and the environment and he has since pushed to make climate change a moral issue, particularly given the toll it will take on the world's poorest.

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“When it comes to the care of our 'common home,' we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change,” Pope Francis said, referencing language from his encyclical.

In addition to calling for climate action, the Pope also praised President Obama's Clean Power Plan as an “encouraging” step toward reducing air pollution and the impacts of climate change.

The Pope's address to Congress tomorrow is likely to continue the climate message. His address at the U.N. will also likely touch on climate change, particularly as the U.N. prepares to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, which lay out a pathway for development. Climate change plays a more prominent role in these goals than the ones they're replacing, known as the Millenium Development Goals.

President Obama, who spoke before the Pope at Wednesday's White House event, reflected a similar moral framing for climate change action.

“Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, God’s magnificent gift to us. We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to a changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations,” he said.

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