Catholic patriarchs, cardinals and bishops representing five continents appealed to climate negotiators on Monday to approve a "transformative" and fair, legally binding agreement that sets global temperature limits and goals for eliminating fossil-fuel emissions.
Representatives of bishops' conferences from around the globe signed the appeal in a renewed push to encourage climate negotiators meeting in Paris next month to heed Pope Francis' call to protect God's creation and the poor who suffer most from its exploitation.
The church's 10-point proposal calls for governments to approve legally binding limits to global average temperatures, set a mid-century goal for phasing out emissions from fossil fuels and provide binding and ambitious mitigation commitments that recognize the different responsibilities for, and abilities to adapt to, global warming.
No precise temperature limit was proposed in the appeal. Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who heads the Asian bishops' conference, suggested the omission was a compromise designed to ensure all bishops could sign onto the appeal, which is the first of its kind for the episcopal conferences from each of the five continents.
"It's not just the pope, it's the whole church throughout the world, and that is powerful," said Monsignor John Ribat, president of the bishops' conference of Oceania and archbishop of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, one of the front-line Pacific island nations most threatened by climate-induced rising sea levels.
In his landmark encyclical "Praise Be," Francis denounced what he called the "structurally perverse" fossil fuel-based world economy that he says exploits the poor and destroys the Earth.
The bishops from Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Oceania backed his assessment, albeit in less dire terms, recognizing that "accelerated climate change" is the result of "unrestrained human activity ... and that excessive reliance on fossil fuels is primarily responsible."