ROME — Catholic leaders expressed “disappointment” and “dismay” at the decision made by President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, which set global goals to combat climate change.
“The President’s decision not to honor the U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement is deeply troubling,” wrote Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, in a statement.
Though the statement recognizes that the Paris Agreement is not the only option to tackle the issue of global warming and climate change, it expressed concern for the Trump administration’s lack of “a current viable alternative.”
“President Trump’s decision will harm the people of the United States and the world, especially the poorest, most vulnerable communities,” Cantú wrote.
The Paris Agreement is ratified by 195 countries including the United States and China, which are the two largest carbon emitters, and sets the goal of keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Trump has promised to withdraw gradually from the agreement signed by President Barack Obama in 2015 and to “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States,” the president said.
The USCCB supported the United States’ participation in the agreement in a letter written to Congress in 2015. The Vatican has also been outspoken about its support for the treaty in the past and Pope Francis wrote about it positively in his encyclical on the environment Laudato Si.
The Paris Agreement “represents the important awareness that, faced with issues as complex as climate change, individual and/or national action is not enough; instead it is necessary to implement a responsible collective response truly intended to work together in building our common home,” the pope wrote to the president of the 22nd session of the UN convention on climate change in 2016.
The Global Catholic Climate Movement, a worldwide network of Catholics who promote the messages in Laudato Si, also issued a statement criticizing Trump’s decision.
“Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a backward and immoral action,” Tomás Insua, Executive Director of the GCCM, wrote in the statement. “Catholics are saddened and outraged that Trump is not listening to Pope Francis after their meeting last week. Still, the world will continue to accelerate climate action, despite the White House’s retrograde stance.”
The global movement concluded the statement by promising to continue advocating for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and to keep divulging the message of the pope’s encyclical.
Catholic Relief Services expressed “disappointment” and stated the withdrawal from the agreement would disproportionately harm “poor people in poor countries.”
“We must hear the cry of the poor. Withdrawing from Paris and cutting foreign assistance is a double whammy to millions around the world,” said said Bill O’Keefe, vice president for advocacy and government relations for CRS.
“Without American leadership–imperfect as it is–problems fester, people suffer, and in the end we too feel the effects of instability, forced migration, and conflict.”
The CRS statement stressed that the United States’ role in addressing climate change is essential.
“Withdrawing from the Paris Accord is a terrible – and we hope reversible – mistake; American leadership is absolutely necessary on this critical global issue. We believe that we can both grow our economy and respond to the Holy Father’s call to care for creation,” O’Keefe said.
In a letter organized by the Catholic Climate Covenant, a U.S. Catholic network that advocates care for creation, leaders from eleven Catholic organizations voiced their disagreement with Trump’s decision.
“There is no justification for his decisions and we implore President Trump to reconsider this path,” the letter reads. “We will continue to raise our voices against climate policies that harm the planet and people.”
Before Trump’s announcement, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, head of the Vatican’s Academy for Sciences, said that the U.S. pulling out would be “a slap in the face” for the Vatican.
Also before the decision was confirmed, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Francis’s point man for social justice, said that this was something the Vatican hoped “would not have happened.”
“Certain issues should be taken out of the political discussion domain and not be politicized. … The truth is, climate is a global public good and not limited to any country,” said the head of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.