IN a new teaching document, Laudate Deum, Pope Francis urges governments, businesses and citizens to take desperately needed action on the climate crisis, warning that the “world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point”.

Laudate Deum means ‘Praise God’ and takes the form of an ‘apostolic exhortation’ – one of the highest teachings a Pope can issue. It follows the Pope’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, which influenced the historic Paris Climate Agreement. Subtitled ‘on care for our common home’, Laudato Si’ urged us to realise that, “everything is connected” and to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

In Laudate Deum, Pope Francis is direct in his condemnation of profit at any cost, and of the desperation of the situation: “we are now unable to halt the enormous damage we have caused. We barely have time to prevent even more tragic damage”. Laudate Deum is the first time the phrase ‘climate crisis’ has appeared in an encyclical or exhortation.

Laudate Deum looks at the reality of the climate crisis today, the weakness of the international policy response, calls for real commitment to the planet at the next climate conference in Dubai, and discusses the spiritual motivations for such a fight.

Ahead of COP28 in Dubai next month, Laudate Deum holds world leaders and industry giants to account, questioning what has been achieved over the last decade. Laudate Deum says that previous Climate Conferences have had a low level of implementation, as personal interests are privileged over the common good, and appeals to politicians to: “demonstrate the nobility of politics and not its shame”.

Laudate Deum issues a very specific call to action at COP28: “If there is sincere interest in making COP28 a historic event that honours and ennobles us as human beings, then one can only hope for binding forms of energy transition”.

CAFOD, the official overseas aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, works at the frontline of climate crises and conflict in over 40 countries. Christine Allen, CAFOD Director, says: “As Pope Francis reminds us, human beings and the earth are not replaceable commodities. We are interdependent and connected. Yet we continue to put greed over and above our love for each other or for our planet. We echo his calls for measures that will help to re-balance our world: including phasing out all fossil fuels and investing in clean energy sources.

“World leaders – including the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – cannot shirk their responsibility to the millions around the world who have contributed least to the heating of our planet. Instead of making hundreds of trips in private jets, politicians in wealthy countries must lead the way: facing up to our historic responsibility as a major polluter, and providing more financial and technical support for communities to respond to the effects of climate change.”

Laudate Deum says, “How can we forget that Africa, home to more than half of the world’s poorest people, is responsible for a minimal portion of historic emissions?” Molu, Director of Caritas Marsabit in Kenya, a partner of CAFOD, says: “In northern Kenya we are seeing just what happens when world leaders fail to reduce carbon emissions. A painful and prolonged drought – the region’s worst in over 40 years – is forcing people from their homes and land. We can’t afford more dithering or delays by world leaders.

“Pope Francis inspires us in our work and is right to lambast the determined work of humans to damage creation. The lands I grew up in as the son of a pastoral farmer are no longer recognisable: baren and dry, they – and the communities who relied upon them – are just some of those who have lost out from the greed and indecision of world leaders.”

* Read: Laudate Deum: To all people of good will on the climate crisis here.

* Access an introductory video and infographics here.

* Source: CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development)