Notre Dame co-sponsors Vatican summit to address climate change

Vatican Summit

In his 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls all members of the human race to seriously consider and react to what he deems an environmental and social emergency. As climate change accelerates, he explains, it is the poor who are most vulnerable to its effects. Both the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” should motivate us, he says.

In response, last June, Notre Dame co-sponsored a conference with the Vatican to discuss climate change with 70 energy and investing executives, including representatives from BP, ExxonMobil, BlackRock, Royal Dutch Shell, and Arabesque. Carolyn Woo, former dean of the Mendoza College of Business and Leo Burke, professor emeritus of management, were instrumental in encouraging participants to consider energy transition.

The two-day meeting, the second of its kind, deliberated on the theme, “The Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home,” and discussed how the present representatives could help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Both the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” should motivate us.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis addressed the summit and remarked, “Today’s ecological crisis, especially climate change, threatens the very future of the human family. This is no exaggeration. For too long we have collectively failed to listen to the fruits of scientific analysis and ‘doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain’ (Laudato Si’, 161). Any discussion of climate change and the energy transition must be rooted, then, in ‘the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply’” (Laudato Si’, 15). He continued, “Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations. In effect, it is the poor who suffer the worst impacts of the climate crisis. As current situations demonstrate, the poor are those most vulnerable to hurricanes, droughts, floods and other extreme climatic events.”

The Pope noted that the release of the “Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was particularly concerning and should hasten leaders to combat global warming.

The leaders took action and signed two joint statements— one on carbon pricing and one on the importance of transparency and climate risk disclosures.

“Collectively, these leaders will influence the planet’s future, perhaps more than any in the world,” said Father Jenkins. “I am deeply grateful for their commitment to the transition to a low-carbon future while providing the energy needed to support the integral human development of every member of the human family.”

Back at Notre Dame, in response to Laudato Si’, in 2016 the University created a sustainability plan which targets energy and emissions, water, building and construction, waste, procurement, licensing and sourcing, and outreach. It has since installed five green roofs, discontinued its use of coal, and created a new food waste system to reduce campus waste by 2,000 pounds per day.