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Catholic Bishops in Africa among Leaders Urging G20 to “consign fossil fuels to history”

Economic loss as a result of pollution from Eskom's Tutuka power station through premature deaths, hospital admissions, and lost working days is estimated to be R2.4 billion per year. Credit: James Oatway for CER

Catholic Bishops in Africa are among the dozens of Church leaders who have petitioned the intergovernmental forum of 19 countries and the European Union (EU) – the G20 – ahead of its meeting later this month “to keep fossil fuels in the ground”. 

G20 members include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the U.S., and EU.

In a petition signed by some 79 Catholic Church leaders from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia who include Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Superiors and Leaders of Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as representatives of some Catholic international entities, a four-point plea “to consign fossil fuels to history” is made to the leadership of G20 ahead of the 30-31 October summit.

"The voices from the communities we work with are ringing out. Climate change is a present reality that is affecting our brothers and sisters around the world, particularly those in poor and climate vulnerable communities who have contributed to this issue the least,” the Catholic Church leaders who include Bishops from South Africa and Ghana say.

They add, "We see increasingly severe and frequent droughts and floods, loss of crops, and destruction of land. We cannot and must not be quiet in the face of such suffering and injustice."

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The Catholic Church leaders caution against climate injustice saying, “The world needs to keep fossil fuels in the ground if we are to limit global warming to a below 1.5 degrees temperature rise by the end of 2030.”

They call upon representatives of the G20 governments who are expected to participate in the sixteenth meeting of the Group of Twenty scheduled to take place in Italy’s capital, Rome, to stop “any new developments of coal, oil and gas within our own countries.”

In their collective statement, the Church leaders who include eight Catholic Prelates from South Africa and the President of Caritas Africa, Archbishop Gabriel Justice Anokye of Ghana’s Kumasi Archdiocese want G20 nations to “immediately” end “all funding of fossil fuels – including coal, oil and gas – abroad.”

The Catholic leaders appeal to G20 nations “to consign fossil fuels to history by … massively scaling up investments in clean and safe forms of energy such as wind and solar power, that prioritize energy access for the poorest communities.”

They also want fossil fuels consigned to history by the G20 countries “making good on promises to provide climate finance to support communities already affected by the impacts of climate change.”

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“Our moral duty is unquestionable. Advanced economies must act first to tackle climate change and must act quickly to protect current and future generations and our common home,” the Catholic Church leaders say.

They add, "We must face our historic responsibility and act with justice, standing in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in our own countries and around the world.” 

The Catholic leaders’ appeal to the G20 countries cautioning against climate injustice follows the May 2019 address of Pope Francis to the meeting with Finance Ministers from various countries at the Vatican on “Climate change and new evidence from science, engineering, and policy.”

“The signs today are not good. Investments in fossil fuels continue to rise, even though scientists tell us that fossil fuels should remain underground,” the Holy Father said in his 27 May 2019 address. 

Making reference to an International Energy Agency report indicating “that investments in clean energy fell again for the second consecutive year,” Pope Francis further said, “We continue along old paths because we are trapped by our faulty accounting and by the corruption of vested interests. We still reckon as profit what threatens our very survival.”

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You are your nations’ financial leaders; you keep the books for your respective governments. Before all else, though, we must recognize the ledger of life itself, of human dignity and survival,” the Holy Father told the Ministers of Finance drawn from various countries of the world.

The Pontiff said he expected the Ministers of Finance at the May 2019 meeting to “agree upon a common plan that accords with climate science, the latest in clean energy engineering, and above all the ethics of human dignity.”

“I ask you to invite your fellow finance ministers around the world to join your efforts and plans. May your work with scientists, technicians and the peoples of your nations, especially the poorest, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement,” Pope Francis said, addressing himself to Finance Ministers during the May 2019 meeting at the Vatican.