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Pope Francis has successfully grabbed the attention of many irrespective of religion. From speaking on gay rights, and being cited by President Barack Obama as a key player in improving the international relations between Cuba and the USA, the Pope seems to have made the impossible possible. His next step?  A call of mobilise for climate change.

At a meeting recently held the Pope said, “Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,”

Time is running out

His holiness’ interest in climate change was noted when the pontiff urged on the need to take action to Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s minister of the environment who was the host of the 20th Conference of Parties of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“The time to find global solutions is running out. We can find adequate solutions only if we act together and unanimously,” he said.

The Pope also has also expressed that climate change will affect all humanity with an added burden on the poorest and the future generations. He has described addressing climate change as a representation of serious ethical and moral responsibility.

Encyclical on climate change

Pope Francis’s next major step on climate action is a rare encyclical on climate and human ecology which is expected to be realised following his visit to Philippines in March.  An encyclical is among the highest levels of teaching of pope’s authority. The document is expected to contain 50 to 60 pages,  and is aimed at calling for action based on moral and scientific grounds.

Experts see the encyclical as a link between science and faith and a way faith could help science to see the deeper human implications. It is also a way to bridge the gap between the people of faith and people of science, and a means to encourage the two groups to work towards achieving a common goal.

Pope Benedict XVI’s request

Pope Francis is not the only Pope to speak on climate change. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI strongly supported international climate change action. Addressing the delegates of the COP17 of the UNFCCC held in Durban, Pope Benedict XVI said “ I hope that all members of the international community can agree on a responsible, credible and supportive response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, keeping in mind the needs of the poorest populations and of future generations.”

However Pope Francis’ expected encyclical remains the first  papal letter to be issued on environment.

Meeting of faith leaders and the UNGA

Following the release of the encyclical, the Pope is also expected to convene a meeting of faith leaders on the two key summits of  2015 : the United Nations General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals, and the Conference of Parties on climate change in Paris in December, he is also expected to speak at the UNGA in September.

The actions of the Pope are indicative of the intention to influence Parties to take action at the conference on climate change in Paris to take action. Over 20 years the countries have negotiated with not much success  and year 2015 is crucial to create change in the world and to take immediate actions to address climate change.

Influencing the course of negotiations

Pope Francis has 60% approval rate among the global population’s according to a 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center, and he is extremely popular in the Catholic countries. His popularity is at 84% in  Europe; 78 % in the U.S., and 72% in Latin America. Given these numbers it would be hard to imagine that his holiness’ call for action will go unnoticed, and without impact in changing the course of negotiations on climate change, as well as SDGs  in 2015. At least one remains hopeful.