One of Pope Francis’s closest collaborators in the Vatican’s fight against climate change has called President Donald Trump’s reported plan to pull out of the Paris accord a “disaster” and a “slap in the face for the Vatican.”
Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said that if Trump takes the United States out of the Paris deal, signed in Dec. 2015, “it would be a disaster for everyone. There’s little else to comment on.”
Sorondo is quoted by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica coming back from a summit at the United Nations devoted to climate change.
“I don’t know what Trump spoke about with the pope,” Sorondo said. “I don’t believe, however, that the conversation was very detailed on climate. I know, however, that the President of the United States spoke about this in the conversation he had with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state.”
In that sense, the bishop said, Trump pulling out of the accords would be “a slap in the face also for us,” referring to the Vatican.
The U.S. President has long spoken about pulling out from Paris, and, according to Sorondo, this is motivated by the “oil lobby.”
Refusing to acknowledge that it is neither necessary nor indispensable to rely on carbon and oil “is like saying that the earth is not round,” he said.
“It’s an absurdity, motivated solely by the need to make money,” Sorondo said. “In any case, it must be said that, unfortunately, [President Barack] Obama is partially at fault for this situation.”
Asked to explain what he meant, the bishop said that Obama took new decisions regarding climate through presidential decree, allowing his successor to change each thing.
“This is the problem,” he said. “Today Trump can, in one day, change the cards on the table, disadvantaging many and in favor of the oil lobby, because no one intervened in a more incisive and long-term way before.”
However, not everyone in the oil industry favors getting out of the Paris agreement. Exxon Mobil’s chief executive, Daren W. Woods, wrote recently that remaining in the deal would be prudent.
“By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth. U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets,” a host of corporate giants wrote in full-page advertisements that ran recently in the New York Times, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.
Trump is expected to reveal his decision on the Paris deal at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, having signaled the announcement on social media.
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, has urged the president not to pull out of the agreement.
“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is on record supporting prudent action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change,” Cantú said in a statement.
“Our Conference of Bishops has vigorously promoted the teaching of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on care for our common home,” Cantú continued. “The Holy Father’s encyclical letter, Laudato si’, was timed in order to urge the nations of the world to work together in Paris for an agreement that protects our people and our planet. We hope the United States will honor the commitment it made there.”
The Paris agreement was a landmark accord signed by most countries in the world in December 2015.
The goal of the deal signed by 195 nations during what was known as the COP21 summit is to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by about half of what will be necessary to stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
That’s the point at which, scientific studies suggest the world will be locked into devastating consequences, including rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages, and more destructive storms.
It’s partly legally binding and partly voluntary, and will take effect in 2020.
Even before the Paris deal was signed, the Vatican was a leader in environmental concern. Emeritus Pope Benedict, the original “green pope,” installed solar panels that produce most of the energy used by the small state and has been riding in an electric car since his retirement.
These measures have only intensified since Francis took over.
Pope Francis openly supported the Paris deal, acknowledging that he’d wanted to make sure his document on the environment, Laudato Si’, was released with enough time to influence the outcome. When Trump visited Francis in the Vatican last week, he received many documents from the pope, including this one.
A statement released by Rome regarding the meeting, however, said the two had spoken about one of the issues where Francis and Trump don’t see eye to eye, migrants, but no mention of climate change was made.
Soon after the Paris deal was signed, Francis praised the agreement, calling it “historic” during his weekly Sunday Angelus prayer: “Its implementation will require unanimous commitment and generous dedication by everyone,” the pontiff.
He also urged the international community to “pay special attention to the most vulnerable populations” and “to carefully follow the road ahead, and with an ever-growing sense of solidarity.”
In November, just days before the opening of the Nov. 30 – Dec. 11 Paris summit, Francis had said that a failure of the COP21 meeting would be “catastrophic.”
“It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects,” the pope said at the headquarters of the UN Environment Program in Nairobi, Kenya.
Although Sorondo is the first Vatican official to speak on the record about the possibility of Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, he’s not the first one to refer to his attitude of denial regarding climate change.
Talking specifically about climate change, Cardinal Peter Turkson, of Ghana, said in March that if Trump didn’t listen to “dissenting voices”- including those of the Catholic hierarchy- and reconsider his position on this matter, the United States risks being supplanted by China as the leader in environmental protection.