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Hopes for COP28

29 November 2023

Pope francis

Please note that this was written before Pope Francis’ plans changed. 

Lorraine Currie, CEO of SCIAF, has written for The National to highlight the Pope's attendance at COP28 which opens in Dubai this week. 

“What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power, only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?” – Pope Francis

Pope Francis will attend COP28 in Dubai which kicks off this week, becoming the first Pontiff ever to attend such a meeting. His attendance has been welcomed across the board by people of all faiths and none as a signal of the profound moral case for action on climate change; something that SCIAF feels deeply, and why we campaign on this issue so much.

Climate change is often presented as a technical, scientific problem that can be solved through innovation and technology. Of course this is part of it. However, we at SCIAF see climate change very differently. We see it as a profoundly moral problem, requiring political solutions, and emblematic of the unequal world we live in.

Every day SCIAF sees the impacts of climate change on people living in some of the poorest parts of the world. The increasing intensity and frequency of floods and droughts, cyclones and heatwaves are destroying lives and livelihoods and undoing much of the development progress SCIAF has been helping to build since we were established in 1965.

As an emergency relief charity, when disaster strikes, SCIAF stands ready to respond. As part of the Caritas Internationalis network, we have sister agencies in almost every country in the world. So when a cyclone hits Malawi, as it did earlier this year, SCIAF was able to quickly get cash to Caritas Malawi which urgently delivers aid to people affected. However, across this global network, we are being stretched. The scale of the increasing and intensifying disasters is becoming so much greater, and with rising temperatures, the need is going to far exceed our ability to respond.

Moreover, the people who are suffering first and worst from this crisis in the countries that SCIAF works in are those who have done the least to cause it, with amongst the lowest carbon footprints in the world.

That is why SCIAF works on climate change, and why we believe it is a profoundly moral question. Climate change is fundamentally an issue of injustice, and tackling climate change is about building a better world where everyone, everywhere cannot just survive, but thrive.

In his recent letter Laudate Deum, Pope Francis calls out the short-term, self-interested behavior of the biggest polluting countries when they engage in climate diplomacy.

He said:

“International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility”.

All countries of the world should heed this call. They must recognise that all we do must be for the common good, for this generation and future generations, and that the actions we take must be informed by the needs of the poorest who are already suffering from this chaos. At this time of multiple crises on different fronts, tragedy and conflict bursting out across the world, we need real leadership which makes the tough decisions for the common good.

At COP28 we hope our own leaders in Scotland and the UK heed this message, and that they remember all that the actions they take (or do not take) on this defining issue of our times will be remembered for years to come.