LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Bishops in the United Kingdom say the environmental crisis is a Catholic issue because it is a universal issue.

The statement from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales was issued Nov. 1, as the United Nations COP26 conference on climate change got underway in Glasgow, Scotland.

The message – signed by Bishop Richard Moth, the lead bishop for social justice, and Bishop John Arnold, the lead bishop for the environment – said the climate crisis affects everyone, and if no action is taken, “we risk causing irreparable damage to God’s creation, the creation of which He made us the stewards.”

In the message, the bishops call for governments to maintain their commitment to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 ° Celsius, and also insisted that governments “commit to supporting the world’s poorest nations, who often find themselves facing the worst effects of climate change despite having done the least to contribute towards it.”

The bishops said that as “a global community of more than a billion people,” the Catholic Church is at the forefront of fighting the ecological crisis.

“As Catholics, we have been given a very clear steer from Pope Francis about the importance of caring for our common home. In his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, His Holiness made it clear that to ‘harm the environment was to harm human beings.’ Therefore, it is an unassailable fact that the ecological crisis is one of the most pressing social justice issue of our time,” the message said.

“We know that we need to act globally to protect the biodiversity of this earth, and all of God’s creation that depends on it. The ecological crisis is a human crisis, and we must strive to find solutions that ensure that the communities most vulnerable to the impact of climate change are not left behind in the decisions made by our leaders in Glasgow,” it continued.

“The COP26 meeting presents us with a unique, unprecedented, and quite possibly final opportunity to engage in a meaningful global dialogue that will establish attainable targets and policies to address the ecological crisis we are living through right now.”

The bishops’ statement came days after Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the president of the bishops’ conference, wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to offer the Catholic Church’s support “as you work to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

“The urgency of the global ecological crisis is increasingly recognized. It is indeed a dark cloud over humanity, a crisis which is both social and environmental,” the cardinal wrote on Oct. 27.

“As you will recognize, the Catholic faith calls us to care for our common home with all people of good will. During this last year we have been urging and demonstrating many excellent projects and initiatives, in so many parishes, schools and dioceses. They illustrate the impact which even the smallest actions can make on the challenge facing us and they inspire a hope that whilst the crisis is human made so too are its solutions,” Nichols added.

In his letter, the cardinal made three requests of the prime minister: For him to support poorer and more vulnerable communities in the face of the devastating effects of climate change; to take a lead in international efforts to develop and champion green energy solutions; and to do all he can to lead partnership between all nations in reducing harmful emissions and in keeping global warming to its stated goals.

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