The long awaited encyclical of Pope Francis was released today (18th June) six months ahead of the crucial climate change negotiations which will take place at the end of year in Paris. The papal encyclical, which is the highest form of teaching to be issues by the Vatican highlights key issues such as addressing the needs of the poor, taking immediate actions on climate change, and right to development which also overlaps with responsible use of natural resources.
His holiness while acknowledging climate to be a common good recognises climate change to be human induced, and points to the need to address its impacts immediately.
“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades,” states the encyclical.
It further points out that climate change is real, its effects are already felt and that mitigation is not the only solution as developing countries will need to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Pope Francis also elaborates the need for finance for countries which are vulnerable to climate change to adapt to its impacts.
“Since the effects of climate change will be felt for a long time to come, even if stringent measures are taken now, some countries with scarce resources will require assistance in adapting to the effects already being produced, which affect their economies,” it reads.
Common But Differentiated Responsibilities
The encyclical marks a clear difference in role, and the responsibility on the part of countries in taking measures to address climate change. It highlights the vulnerability of the poor, and the injustice of pushing heavy burdens on the shoulders of developing States.
“Some strategies for lowering pollutant gas emissions call for the internationalization of environmental costs, which would risk imposing on countries with fewer resources burdensome commitments to reducing emissions comparable to those of the more industrialized countries. Imposing such measures penalizes those countries most in need of development. A further injustice is perpetrated under the guise of protecting the environment,” it adds.
Pope Francis further notes that in addressing the issue of climate change in the aforementioned manner, it is the poor who end up paying the price and continues, “In this context, there is a need for common and differentiated responsibilities.”
Climate Induced Displacement
The Pope speaks of those who are displaced due to climate change, and are homeless yet do not fit into the traditional definition of being a refugee affording to the Refugee Convention of 1957. The encyclical while highlighting the vulnerability of these groups of people, also points to the gaps in international law that fails to address the concerns of the displaced.
“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognised by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world.”
Fossil Fuel to Renewables
The encyclical states that the issue of climate change is created by development strategies dependent on fossil fuels. It reads, “The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system.”
It continues in pointing the urgent need for policies that shift from fossil fuel to non fossil based energy generation.
“There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”
The encyclical also focuses on sustainable development and highlights the need for it to be hand in hand with integral development. “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change,” says the encyclical.
It is expected that the Pope will travel to the US in September to address the UN General Assembly which will bring together leaders of Nations to make decisions on the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also the hope that the encyclical will be cause for inspiration to rally Nations to make binding commitments in Paris, to bring down their emissions as actions to address the impacts of climate change.
Co-founder of The Million Person Project (MPP) with her boyfriend Julian Mocine-McQueen, Heather works on a global initiative that works with activists, artists, business people, farmers, authors and students to identify their true stories and help them use that energy in their speaking. .Over the past ten years she has worked in social change movements across the world on issues such as civic engagement, climate change, human rights, immigration and sustainable development. She shared her story on what drove her to be who she is today.
Heather is passionate about redefining leadership. She finds this to be the motivation behind her work on the Million Person Project.
I believe that our leadership effectiveness is directly linked to how deeply, emotionally connected we are to our personal mission, and how willing we are to share our victories and vulnerabilities,” she said.
For Heather, leadership is far from impressing the world but more about connecting.
“It’s not about impressing; it’s about connecting. It’s not about performing; it’s about engaging. It’s not about being all you can be; it’s about being all of who you are,” she added.
Investing in One’s Dream
Heather did not randomly start her work. She decided to take steps to gain knowledge necessary to succeed at it. While having a coach to guide her through the process of setting up her project, she adds that the experience itself was a great learning process.
“I learned 1,000 times more in the first workshops I conducted, then I did in the six months I spent preparing,” she said.
Challenging the Mind-set
Heather believes that most of the difficulties she faced were around challenging her own belief systems.
“I realized I was telling myself stories my whole life like, I am not good with money. Business is not my thing. People think what I am doing is cool, but they do not take it seriously. Dealing with those beliefs and understanding where they came from has helped me transform them into healthier, more affirming beliefs,” she explained.
Being a Woman
“At first, I didn’t believe that I could do what I loved and make a good living doing it,” said Heather. But today she has proved to herself and others that it is quite possible.
For her clear communication is the key to having work and life balance.
“You need to have sit down conversations with your bosses, clients and families and let them know when you are and are not available. You can’t try to do it all without communicating clearly. On some days, you have to be willing to not be available to people either at work or at home,” she added.
Heather wants to see her business grow into a business that is thriving financially and that could grow to have a far-reaching impact in the coming years.
“If you want to embark on an entrepreneur journey – get support. It is okay to have no idea how to do something and still want to do it. Coaches and group support programs can be key to building the skills and confidence to accomplish your goals,” she explained.
Note: Heather Box is also a writer for Huffington Post. She has also published in Source Magazine, Foreign Policy Focus, Ms. Magazine, Stark and Smith Magazine.