National News

Despite Crisis, Catholics Still In Focus on Climate Change Fight

By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent

Pope Francis emphasized protection for the environment and the need to mitigate climate change in his second encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” released in June. This is an aerial view of the Rio Platano nature reserve in Honduras. (CNS photo/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

NEW YORK – Thousands of world leaders gathered in San Francisco last week for the Global Climate Action Summit to “Take Ambition to the Next Level” in fighting climate change, and in particular, to ensure the Paris Climate Agreement remains in effect.

Among those present was Dan Misleh, the founding executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. He spoke with The Tablet about why he believes the Church’s ongoing leadership in caring for creation remains essential, even in the face of other looming crises.

What’s been your message to the Global Climate Action Summit?

Misleh: Our primary message is that the U.S. Catholic community is “Still In.” I announced that over 750 Catholic organizations signed the Covenant’s Catholic Climate Declaration during an event sponsored by the larger We Are Still In campaign (i.e., governments, businesses, NGOs and others are still in on the Paris Agreement despite the Trump Administration’s decision to withdrawal from it in June 2017).

Describe the Catholic presence on hand at the event.

Besides the Covenant, other Catholic representatives included the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, the California Catholic Conference, among others.

Many of the representatives presented yesterday at a faith community side event sponsored by San Francisco-based Interfaith Power and Light, Green Faith, and Grace Cathedral. The focus for these presentations have ranged from the practical – how to motivate people of faith to engage in the climate issue in their parishes, for example – to the spiritual – how do we cultivate gratitude for the gift of creation and examine personal and unsustainable consumption.

World leaders and activists from around the globe have been participating in this event. Have Pope Francis and “Laudato Si’” been reference points throughout the summit?

In the faith events that I’ve attended and participated in, Pope Francis and “Laudato Si’” have certainly been front and center. In side conversations where I self-identify as the director of the Covenant with other climate activists, I have heard repeatedly how grateful they have been for Pope Francis’ leadership on climate.

Given the current sex abuse crisis in the Church, do you believe it has diminished the Church’s ability to speak to this issue?

The urgency of action on the climate issue has been a recurring theme in both the secular and faith contexts here in San Francisco. I think the “all hands on deck” attitude means that efforts from any and all groups, including the Catholic Church, are encouraged and supported. In addition, the Covenant not only enjoys the support of the U.S. Catholic Conference but 16 other national Catholic groups so we have tremendous latitude to work with and through our partners to encourage greater action on the climate issue.