The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Oxfam International on Friday praised Pope Francis’ latest encyclical that for the first time focuses on the impact of climate change especially on poor countries.
UNDO Administrator Helen Clark said the pronouncement of the Pope is an important contribution to the debate on climate change that affects mostly the marginalized.
“The poor and the marginalized in our societies are the ones who are the most vulnerable to climate change, and are also the ones hardest hit by its impacts,” she said.
“As we look forward later this year to the creation of sustainable development goals and the expected climate change agreement, we must seize this once in a generation opportunity to chart a new course for sustainable development which benefits everyone and protects our planet,” Clark added.
Oxfam International, which has been at the forefront of the climate change debate, said the Pope’s pronouncement showed the state of the world’s environment is on top of the Vatican’s agenda.
“The call by His Holy Father, His Holiness Pope Francis, reminds us that climate change is first and foremost about people. The gross and growing inequality between rich and poor has been made worse by the climate crisis,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.
She said the Pope, through the encyclical, stressed the responsibility for wealthy nations to improve their ways to prevent climate change that has a disproportionate impact on poor countries.
“Only when world leaders heed the Pope’s moral leadership on these two defining issues, inequality and climate change, will our societies become safer, more prosperous and more equal,” Byanyima added.
Marie Madamba-Nunez, currently acting country director of Oxfam in the Philippines, said the country, like many developing countries, bears the brunt of extreme weather events attributed to climate change.
“We have seen it over the past year with typhoons Haiyan, Rammasun and Hagupit, and more recently, with an El Nino dry spell that has destroyed some P2.19 billion worth of crops as of May this year,” she said.
Nunez added the growing frequency and strength of typhoons and other extreme weather events are having disproportionate impacts on the poorest people in the Philippines and around the world.
“The encyclical is an urgent call to action for everyone to take action on climate change, while demanding their political leaders to do the same,” she further said.
Pope Francis on Thursday urged the world to act quickly to prevent “extraordinary” climate change from destroying the planet, saying rich countries must bear responsibility for creating the problem, and finance a solution.
In a nearly 200-page document, the Pope blamed human greed and consumerism, businesses and political figures for the situation “Our Sister, mother Earth” now finds itself in.
“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” he wrote in the long-anticipated encyclical.