Vatican insiders reveal that Pope Francis is considering attending the upcoming COP28 climate conference in Dubai, set to commence next month. This historic move would mark the first time a Pope has participated in a United Nations climate change conference since their inception in 1995.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, expressed Pope Francis’ desire to travel to Dubai during a recent Catholic-Jewish event in Rome, stating that a final decision had yet to be made. According to other Vatican sources, the likelihood of the Pope’s attendance at the event, scheduled from November 30 to December 12, stands at a substantial 90 percent.
Typically, heads of state attend the opening sessions of such conferences, delivering keynote speeches. For instance, U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the commencement of the previous two conferences held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in the previous year and Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. These conferences also provide opportunities for bilateral meetings between world leaders.
Pope Francis, at 86 years old, has prioritized environmental protection throughout his papacy. Recently, he held a meeting with Sultan al-Jaber, the President of COP28. In a significant statement on October 4, Pope Francis appealed to climate change skeptics and hesitant politicians, urging them to recognize the human impact on climate change and the importance of scientific evidence. He emphasized that the planet may be on the brink of a crisis. This document, referred to as an Apostolic Exhortation and titled “Laudate Deum” (Praise God), serves as a follow-up to Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si” (Praise Be). It was spurred by the occurrence of recent extreme weather events and mentioned the challenges that COP28 faces on multiple occasions.
The document also warns that failure at the Dubai conference would be a grave disappointment and would jeopardize the progress made thus far. Despite mobility challenges due to a knee ailment, Pope Francis has maintained an active schedule. In September, he undertook trips to Mongolia and the French city of Marseilles.
There is a strong possibility that Pope Francis will attend the COP28 climate conference in Dubai next month, signaling a significant moment in the history of United Nations climate change conferences. The Pope’s commitment to addressing climate change and his willingness to participate in this event underscore the urgency of the global environmental crisis.