An eagerly-awaited message from the Pope being formally published today is expected to warn of the urgent need to tackle “unprecedented” climate change and destruction of nature.
The papal encyclical, a letter sent to 5,000 Catholic bishops worldwide, is being published in five languages, and Pope Francis has said the document is “addressed to everyone”, not just the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
A leaked draft of the encyclical, which appeared on the website of Italian news magazine L’Espresso in Italian earlier this week, indicates the pontiff will use it to spell out the moral and scientific case for protecting the environment.
The draft warned that on current trends the world faces unprecedented climate change and destruction of the ecosystems, with serious consequences for everyone and with those in poverty most vulnerable.
In it, the Pope said that humans need to change their unsustainable lifestyles, and called for action to cut greenhouse gases, develop renewables and clean energy, improve energy efficiency and ensure sustainable management of forests and oceans.
The pontiff has spoken before on the effects of climate change on people and nature, but the encyclical comes ahead of a UN meeting to decide new “sustainable development goals” in September and crucial international talks aimed at securing a new global climate deal in Paris at the end of the year.
It is highly anticipated, with a third of Catholics in England and Wales saying they will make their lifestyle greener if the pontiff makes an official statement on climate change in a poll for Catholic aid agency Cafod ahead of the publication.
But the encyclical is likely to spark controversy in the US where climate sceptics, including many Catholics, feel the Pope’s views on the environment clash with their doubts about the issue.