Pope praises youth climate change activists for 'challenging the adult world'

·Senior Climate Editor
·3 min read

Pope Francis thanked a youth climate activist conference on Wednesday for the participants’ “dreams and projects of goodness” and encouraged them to keep up their advocacy of action to combat climate change.

Speaking in Spanish via video to the Youth4Climate event in Milan, which drew 400 young activists from 197 countries, the pope said their work is “for the good of humanity,” and it “is capable of challenging the adult world,” according to NBC News.

Pope Francis waves at the end of his weekly general audience on September 29, 2021 in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves at the end of his weekly general audience on Wednesday at the Vatican. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images)

The Roman Catholic Church that Pope Francis leads has long advocated for environmental protection, and the current pope has been especially outspoken about climate change. Earlier this month, in a joint statement, Pope Francis, the archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the global Anglican Communion, and the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church called for everyone to make “meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth.”

The youth climate event comes on the heels of a climate strike organized by youth environmental movement Fridays for Future, in which young people rallied in 1,500 cities worldwide last Friday.

In her speech to the rally held on Friday in Berlin, renowned 18-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg criticized President Biden and other heads of state for taking insufficient action to reduce climate change, saying, “World leaders are talking about ‘building back better,’ promising green investments and setting vague and distant climate targets in order to say that they are taking climate action.”

On Tuesday, speaking to the same conference that Pope Francis would address a day later, Thunberg mocked those same leaders for what she views as hollow rhetoric on climate change.

Greta Thunberg speaks during opening plenary session of the Youth4Climate pre-COP26 event. (Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Greta Thunberg speaks at the Youth4Climate pre-COP26 event. (Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“When I say ‘climate change,’ what do you think of? I think jobs. Green jobs. Green jobs,” she said, imitating Biden’s political pitch for his Build Back Better agenda.

“We must find a smooth transition towards a low carbon economy. There is no Planet B. There is no Planet Blah. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” she added in what CNN reported was a reference to a speech given by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The pope, whose church claims more than 1.3 billion adherents worldwide, struck a more conciliatory tone in his address. “There must be harmony between people, men and women, and the environment.” He asked the young activists to help build a “culture of care” for the earth.

The youth climate summit aims to build pressure and momentum for a strong global agreement to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in November in Glasgow, Scotland. Scientists say that if emissions do not begin to rapidly decrease in this decade, the world will inevitably blow through the goals of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, with catastrophic consequences.

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