By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — President Donald Trump’s June 1 decision "not to honor the U.S. commitment" to the Paris climate agreement "is deeply troubling," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
"The Scriptures affirm the value of caring for creation and caring for each other in solidarity. The Paris agreement is an international accord that promotes these values," Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said in a statement released shortly after the president made his announcement in the White House Rose Garden.
"President Trump’s decision will harm the people of the United States and the world, especially the poorest, most vulnerable communities," the bishop said after Trump announced the U.S. will withdraw immediately from the Paris accord.
"The impacts of climate change are already being experienced in sea level rise, glacial melts, intensified storms, and more frequent droughts," Bishop Cantu said. "I can only hope that the president will propose concrete ways to address global climate change and promote environmental stewardship."
Trump said the climate accord "is less about the climate and more about other countries obtaining a financial advantage over the United States."
He said he wants to create a "level playing field" and establish the "highest standard of living, highest standard of environmental protection." The United States now joins Syria and Nicaragua in not being part of the accord.
Bishop Cantu said that although the Paris agreement is not the only possible mechanism for addressing global carbon mitigation, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern.
He said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pope Francis "and the entire Catholic Church have consistently upheld the Paris agreement as an important international mechanism to promote environmental stewardship and encourage climate change mitigation."
Before Trump made his announcement, Bishop Cantu issued a statement saying the United States had an obligation to honor the Paris agreement to protect "our people and our planet" and "mitigate the worst impacts of climate change." He urged Trump to honor the accord.
The USCCB released the earlier statement along with copies of letters sent weeks earlier to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. The letters were signed by Bishop Cantu; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Sean L. Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.
"We write about our shared obligation to care for the environment. The Judeo-Christian tradition has always understood ‘the environment’ to be a gift from God," said the letters urging the Trump administration officials in their respective capacities to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Paris accord.
"Pope Francis called on the world’s leaders to come together to protect the gift of our common home. … We have one common home, and we must protect it," they said.
In both statements Bishop Cantu noted that the U.S. bishops have for years "voiced support for prudent action and dialogue on climate change," as far back as their 2001 statement on global climate change and again in 2015 in a letter to Congress. They have, he said, "reiterated their support on several occasions."
"Pope Francis and the Holy See have also consistently voiced support for the Paris agreement," Bishop Cantu said. In his earlier June 1 statement, Bishop Cantu said the pope’s 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home" was timed "to urge the nations of the world to work together in Paris for an agreement that protects our people and our planet."
The Paris accord has been ratified by 134 of the 197 countries that approved it in December 2015 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. President Barack Obama ratified on its own, bypassing the U.S. Senate. The agreement went into force in October after enough countries ratified it.
A day before Trump announced the immediate withdrawal of the U.S. from the climate accord, Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Integral Development of People, told reporters in Washington that "the decision to possibly pull out for us is something we hoped would not have happened."
"Certain issues should be taken out of the political discussion and not be politicized. … The truth is, climate is a global public good and not limited to any country, not limited to any nation," the cardinal said.
"The Vatican would always respect the decision of a sovereign state," added Cardinal Turkson, who was in Washington for a conference at Georgetown University. "We will continue to still talk about climate change and all of that, and hope that some change can occur midstream."