Catholic bishops urge G8 to recommit to reducing global poverty, tackling climate change

By agency reporter
June 19, 2008

In the run up to the G8 summit in Japan, presidents of nine Catholic Bishops’ Conferences have called on G8 nations to honour their commitments to reduce global poverty and tackle climate change.

In a letter to the G8 leaders, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Cardinal Keith O’Brien along with the other seven presidents of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in G8 countries called for the promises made at Gleneagles in 2005 and in Heiligendamn in 2007 to be reaffirmed and built upon.

Responding to the letter Prime Minister Gordon Brown today (Thursday) praised the Catholic Church for its outstanding leadership in tackling global poverty and climate change as he called for a re-doubling of efforts across the world to address these issues.

In 2005, the world’s richest countries promised to spend an additional $50 billion per year on development assistance by 2010, with half that amount going to Africa. The Catholic leaders stress that these commitments must be met “and additional commitments should be made in the areas of health care, education and humanitarian aid.”

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: “Our religious and moral commitment to protect human life and promote human dignity moves us to be particularly concerned for the poorest and most vulnerable members of the human family, especially those in developing countries. The experience of the Catholic Church in serving the needs of poor communities leads us to applaud the forthcoming G8 Summit’s focus on development and Africa.

“The forthcoming Summit will explore many issues of critical importance to human life and dignity. We all pray that your meeting will be blessed by a spirit of collaboration that enables you to advance the global common good by taking concrete measures to reduce poverty and address climate change.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “The Catholic Church’s outstanding leadership on global poverty and climate change has been enormously important in mobilising millions of people to demand change. Their letter today to G8 leaders rightly calls for G8 countries to honour the promises made to the poorest in the world. As we build momentum to the G8 and the UN Millennium Goal Summit we must redouble our efforts to make progress on both poverty and climate change.”

The Catholic leaders argue that urgent action is needed to tackle the global food crisis – made all the more imperative by the impact of HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases. They asked for the G8 leaders to consider proposals that mitigate the impact of the world food crisis on poor communities, increase health and education spending, and move towards just world trade policies that respect the dignity of the human person in their working life. At the heart of this approach and to ensure the long-term success of these measures, the poor need to be empowered to be drivers of their own development.

The letter also raises the issue of the environment and points out how the world’s poor are often likely to experience a disproportionate share of the harmful effects of climate change, including conflicts, high energy costs and health problems.

“The costs of initiatives to prevent and adapt to the harmful consequences of climate change should be borne more by richer persons and nations who have benefited most from the emissions that have fueled development and should not unduly burden the poor.”

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