Pope meets COP23 delegation from endangered Pacific islands


Pope Francis on Saturday met the Pacific Island Forum, a delegation of leaders from the Pacific Island states on their way to the COP23 talks in Bonn. The group hope to play a key role in discussions on how to implement the 2015 Paris agreement on cutting carbon emissions and helping to prevent global warming.

During their meeting Pope Francis share his concerns about the impact of rising sea levels on vulnerable island, coastal and fishing communities and called for global cooperation, solidarity and strategies to address issues such as the deterioration of the environment and the health of oceans. Pope Francis blamed many of the causes of this "environmental decay" on short-sighted human activity, provoked by the exploitation of natural and human resources.

The Holy Father lamented that since the appeal by the Filipino bishops (See: www.cbcponline.net/documents/1980s/1988-ecology.html ) nearly 30 years ago, the situation of the oceans and the marine ecosystem, especially the barrier reef, has not improved. We still face problems, including pollution caused by the accumulation of plastics and micro-plastics in oceans, the Pope said.

In an interview on Vatican Radio before the Papal Audience, Taneti Maamau, President of the Republic of Kiribati, and Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, spoke with Phipa Hitchens.

President Maamau said that climate change is seriously affecting the livelihood of Karibati. Coastal erosion is damaging water quality in particular. Roads are also affected in coastal areas and schools often have to be closed when there are droughts, water surges, king tides and even cyclones. These are becoming regular problems, forcing us to look at alternative water supplies, he said.

President Maamau said he was looking for a bigger commitment for reducing global temperatures, especially from larger, coal producing countries. For him, the sooner the agreements are made, the better. "We can't wait. Our people are crying out!" the president said.

The President said he was greatly encouraged by Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si. "The earth is our home, our mother", he said, and we have to take care of it. That's the divine mandate we were given, but sometimes, we are too greedy, hoping we can take everything in our hands to satisfy our needs. But sometimes we take too much and that's causing trouble. My message to Pope Francis is, thank you!"

The Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa noted that the Pacific nations have been advocating strongly to further limit the raising of the global temperature to 1.5 degrees, rather than 2 degrees. With scientific evidence pointing to an acceleration of climate change, she said, the Pacific Island nations are hoping to show how urgent the issue is, as well as proposing realistic ideas on how to achieve the 1.5 limit.

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