Laudato Si’ 3 years later: Vatican calls conference to assess impact, future action
By Mariagrazia Midulla, head of climate and energy programme, WWF-Italy.

© WWF Intl. / Jonathan Diamond / The Stand

It was only three years ago that Pope Francis released his Encyclical Laudato Si’ (Praise be to you) on “Care For Our Common Home”, yet it seems a long time. Not only because it is said to be the most quoted papal document in history, but because it is certainly a germinal document, which has initiated dialogues, synergies, and transformations whose effects will be seen in the long run.

Laudato Si’ highlighted concern for the precarious state of our common home

The Encyclical arose from a profound concern for our common home, “the Creation” for Christians and religious believers in general. The choice of not using the religious definition in the title, however, is the first sign of a great openness of dialogue aimed at involving all people of good will, though dialogue has necessarily started with other religions, because the Pope’s call is first of all moral. But then the Papal letter calls to everybody and “communicate above all a sense of deep urgency and profound concern for the precarious state of our common planetary home”[1].

Conference called to assess impact

Like his predecessors, Pope Francis acquires the best contributions from the scientific, economic and social point of view, but then he wants to see action, not just thoughts. That’s why the relatively new Dicastery for Integral Human Development, led by Cardinal Peter Turkson, called for a two days Conference (5–6 July in the Vatican City) in order to assess the impact of Laudato Si’ and envisage future action. Somehow, the conference wants to give substance to decoupling human prosperity and economy based on the race for consumption and waste by creating links between people, different worlds and different perspectives that can pursue this change.

The conference will bring together representatives of the civil society, religions, churches, scientists, politicians, economists, grassroots movements, and artists. The meeting of so many different people, operating in very different fields and in different roles, is helped by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), seen as a common ground and a starting point.

Assuming that there is the need of a systemic vision of problems and solutions, the need arises for an approach that enhances the interrelation among all objectives and targets, fostering synergies and co-benefits of actions and derives its “transformative” potential that otherwise risks get lost in a list of targets, certainly not all of the same content and of the same potential.

The conference escapes the temptation to tackle the environmental and social aspects with a caution that we can no longer afford, given the speed of climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the evolution of different aspects of the environmental problem and, at the same time, the deepening of inequalities and the possible dramatic evolutions in the presence of scarcity of natural resources to be shared in a way that allow ecosystems to regenerate them.

One of the opening sessions is titled “1.5°C rise and no more”, another one is calling for inspiring a massive movement for caring for our common home, giving a clear view of the approach, linked to communities and encouraging them to take ownership of the great global issues.

Pope’s action is wider than just words

The action by Pope Francis is much wider. Just a few weeks ago, he warned major oil company heads that there is “no time to lose” to address climate change, urging them to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels. He called on the participants “to be the core of a group of leaders who envision the global energy transition in a way that will take into account all the peoples of the earth, as well as future generations and all species and ecosystems”. After that meeting BP, ENI and Shell announced carbon emissions reduction plans, but we will see and check how really transformative their commitments are.

After all, what makes Laudato Si’ a unique document is precisely the great ability to appeal to the human side of each one, regardless of their role and interests, reminding that we live together on the same Planet and that we depend on ecosystems and services that they offer.

In these times that sometimes can generate despair, the Pope and his Encyclical remind everyone that hope is a matter of action.

Mariagrazia Midulla is head of the climate and energy programme for WWF-Italy. She is based in Rome. mmidulla@wwf.it

[1] From the Concept note of SAVING OUR COMMON HOME AND THE FUTURE OF LIFE ON EARTH — International Conference on the 3rd Anniversary of Laudato si’