Laudato si (Praised be) on the care of our common home, Pope Francis’s new encyclical on the environment and its impact on humanity, especially the poor, is a “most inspiring development,” former senator and now climate change commissioner Heherson Alvarez said on Wednesday.
“It shifts the focus of concern from the scientific and political dimension to all- embracing moral appreciation. Pope Francis luminously explains with the new encyclical that man is damaging God’s creation, reflecting Saint Francis of Assisi, from whom he took his name, and as such environment is very important to him,” Alvarez noted in a statement.
The former senator said the poor being “very important” to Francis was evident in his visit to the Philippines in January this year, where he shunned the trappings of wealth and wanted to be at all times with the marginalized.
The poor, according to Alvarez, suffer “most bitterly” from climate change.
“Very recently, the Philippines was hit with temperatures that rose above 40°C. While well to-do-Filipinos turn on their air-conditioners, the poor cannot have this luxury. They bake in the sun, their little food spoiled easily with no refrigerators, and even rest becomes harder in the extreme heat. Add to that, the impact of extreme rainfall and wind, super typhoons like Typhoon Yolanda will continue to make life harder over decades for the poor,” he said.
Yet, Alvarez, who headed the Senate Committee on the Environment for 10 years, also noted that “even if we already know we are one of the most vulnerable to climate change, we still continue to see our carbon footprint rise because our business and industry leaders continue with electricity from dirty fossil fuels. We continue to build many coal plants, while solar, wind and other renewable energy meagerly, disproportionately, grow to fill our vital needs for power.”
In Laudato si, Francis says, “International negotiations cannot progress in a significant way because of the positions of the countries which privilege their own national interests rather than the global common good.”
The poor, he adds, “who will suffer the consequences which we are trying to hide will remember this lack of conscience and responsibility.”
According to Francis, many scientific studies show “the greater part of global warming in the last decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases [carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others]emitted above all due to human activity.”
Arguing that climate change is a “moral imperative,” Alvarez urged “our dominantly Christian community [to make]make climate change mitigation [and adaptation, too]the deeply felt priority.”
In February 1995, he convened the First Asia-Pacific Conference on Climate Change in Manila.
Alvarez heads the Advisory Board of the Climate Institute, one of the oldest think-tank environmental groups based in Washington, D.C.
The former senator crafted the Philippines’ National Framework Strategy on Climate Change.