The Eiffel Tower is seen at sunset in Paris Nov. 22. Catholic organizations said the terror attacks in Paris had not dissuaded them from attending the UN climate change conference Nov. 30-Dec. 11. CNS photo/Charles Platiau, Reuters)

Catholic groups, undeterred by Paris attacks, will attend climate summit

By  James Martone, Catholic News Service
  • November 24, 2015

WASHINGTON - Catholic organizations advocating to protect the world and its people from the impact of climate change said the terror attacks in Paris will not dissuade them from attending the UN summit on climate change to be held there Nov. 30-Dec. 11.

"As far as I know, everyone who was planning to go is going. It is such an important issue, at such a critical moment, that we have all been working toward," said Chloe Schwabe, director of the faith-economy-ecology project at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

"As awful and horrific as the terrorist attacks in Paris were, that can't stop us, because there are so many other people suffering around the world ... from the impact of climate change," said Schwabe, one of several Catholic organization representatives who told CNS they were moving forward with previously scheduled plans to be present at the conference. The conference aims at limiting greenhouse gas emissions by way of a global accord.

The representatives reiterated earlier plans to relay the stories of people already feeling the effects of climate change in Oceania, Asia, Africa and Latin America, in hopes of convincing summit delegates of the need to mitigate climate change through safeguards that do not further compromise the poor.

Climate change "is still the No. 1 issue, it is still what we have to take care of," said Patrick Carolan, executive director of Franciscan Action Network.

"These horrific events that happened in Paris are not going to stop us from doing what we have to do," which will include presenting representatives of UN member countries with a climate petition signed by more than 500,000 concerned Catholics from around the globe, said Carolan.

International Co-operation for Development and Solidarity, or CIDSE, an alliance of Catholic development agencies, said it was deeply affected by the attacks because many of its members are based in Paris, where they occurred, and because the alliance is headquartered in Brussels, where some of the suspected killers allegedly originated.

"We are, of course, shocked and saddened by the events, but we are still very committed to all the activities planned around the topics of transformative change and climate justice," said Bernd Nilles, CIDSE secretary-general.

The Paris attacks killed at least 130 people at various locations. The French government has imposed a three-month state of emergency and cancelled public concerts and rallies, including two major rallies in association with the summit, citing security concerns in light of the attacks, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Catholic organization representatives surmised that France's decision to ban the public events would negatively affect desired momentum behind the summit. That made it especially important now to encourage related rallies in other parts of the world, they said.

"While I do understand the security concerns, I am also fearful of closing down spaces for civil society to express itself. It does not look good for citizen participation and input in the process of the negotiations," said Genevieve Talbot, research and advocacy officer for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. "It makes it all the more important to participate in local marches in our hometowns. We will be very present at the march in Ottawa on Nov. 29.” 

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