Frequently asked questions

What's an encyclical?

An encyclical is a letter circulated by the Pope to Catholic churches worldwide. Papal encyclicals provide analysis, in the light of the Gospel and of the Tradition of the Church, on relevant issues for the faithful. Previous popes have issued encyclicals on a variety of topics, including social issues such as the struggles of workers during the industrial revolution to the need for peace in the post-World War II era. Some of these encyclicals have helped to inform Catholic Social Teaching documents.

What is human ecology?

The phrase ‘human ecology’ is a combination of the phrases human development and ecological care. It suggests a holistic approach to both human growth and environmental protection, realising that the former cannot exist without the latter.

Why is the Pope’s encyclical so important?

Love and care for creation are essential dimensions of our faith. A social encyclical on human development and the environment will help Catholic believers address, reflect and respond to the environmental challenges our world is facing today. It will help us answer difficult questions such as: how do we love our neighbours in need by sharing wealth and at the same time love our earth by promoting sustainability? How do we promote economic growth and respect the common good?

In September 2015, global leaders will negotiate new sustainable development goals that will set the direction and targets for development for the next 15 years.  Pope Francis will be speaking at this meeting.  In December 2015, international leaders will also meet in Paris to secure a global climate deal. In both meetings, international decision makers will make critical choices about development and the environment that could impact the lives of millions of people, especially our brothers and sisters living in the poorest countries. In this context, the timing of the Pope’s encyclical couldn’t be more poignant.

What will the encyclical mean for the Catholic community?

As with all Church teachings, Catholics have a particular responsibility to engage with and reflect upon the message of the encyclical and find ways to apply it to our lives. By gathering together the main faith statements on love for creation in one document, and by bringing a novel and refreshing view on them, Pope Francis’ encyclical could motivate Catholic communities to promote environmental justice in an unprecedented way.

Where can I get more information about the encyclical?

Sign up to Caritas Australia’s campaign e-newsletter, inside Caritas campaigns, to receive updates on the encyclical and related climate change advocacy.

Visit our climate justice campaign page, Our Common Home, for information and resources.

Caritas Australia is developing resource kits for schools and parishes in partnership with Catholic Earthcare Australia.  These kits will be available at Our Common Home in August 2015. If you subscribe to our campaigner mailing list, we'll notify you by email when these and other resources become available.

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to changes in the global climate beyond those which we would expect to see due to natural climate variations.

Why is Caritas Australia campaigning on climate change?

There are many compelling reasons why Caritas Australia is campaigning on climate change:

  • Climate is the single biggest threat to reducing poverty. Whether it is typhoons or floods destroying entire communities, damaging homes and property or unpredictable seasons for farmers leading to harvests growing smaller or failing, leaving millions hungry, climate change is undoing decades of our work together to improve people’s lives.
  • If Caritas Australia is serious about tackling poverty, we need to take climate change seriously. The world’s poorest people are already being hit hardest by climate extremes, despite having contributed the least to global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that climate change is expected to significantly increase and intensify extreme climatic events, putting those most vulnerable at even greater risk.
  • Many of the communities Caritas Australia supports tell us they are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate; they have told us that rains are coming earlier, droughts are lasting longer, fresh water is becoming more scarce due to a rising sea level and storm surges, and extreme weather events such as cyclones are increasing in intensity. At Caritas Australia we believe it is our role to bring the voices of the communities with whom we partner, and who are most vulnerable to climate change, to the Australian and global conversation on climate change.
  • In advocating on climate change, we are led by Pope Francis, who has shown strong and powerful leadership on caring for creation and tackling climate change. He has urged all of us to heed the moral imperative to care for creation and for the human dignity of those most impacted by climate change. In his strongest statement yet, the Pope's 2015 encyclical focuses on ecology and climate change.
  • At the Caritas Internationalis General Assembly in May 2015, The Secretary of State of His Holiness The Pope, Cardinal Parolin, joined with the President of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Tagle, and the Coordinator of the Council of Cardinals, Cardinal Maradiaga, to urge Caritas agencies to double our efforts on climate change.

Is campaigning on climate change ‘being political’?

As an aid and development organisation, it is our responsibility to address the causes – rather than simply the effects – of marginalisation and poverty. Advocacy is one way for change to occur.  Caritas Australia advocates for policies that uphold human rights and Catholic Social Teaching principles from all Australian leaders and politicians regardless of their political party.

As Pope Francis himself has said:

“It's a matter of concerning oneself not with partisan politics, but with the great politics born of the Commandments and the Gospel. Denouncing human rights abuses, situations of exploitation or exclusion, or shortages in education or food, is not being partisan.

Catholic social teaching is full of denunciations, yet it is not partisan. When we come out and say things, some accuse us of playing politics. … yes, we are playing politics in the Gospel sense of the word, but not the partisan sense.”

Is Caritas Australia campaigning on climate change in collaboration with other organisations?

Yes.  We are working in collaboration with a number of other organisations and networks:

  • Caritas Australia is a member of Caritas Internationalis, which works with national Caritas organisations around the world, Bishops’ Conferences and southern partners to speak out on global issues including climate change.
  • As one of three social justice agencies under the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission, we are working in partnership with our two sister agencies Catholic Earthcare Australia and the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.
  • We are part of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which represents nearly 100 Catholic organizations working on climate justice.
  • We are a member of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, a multifaith network in Australia.
  •  We are a member of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and participate in ACFID’s Climate Change Working Group.

How is Caritas Australia helping communities to adapt to climate change?

Caritas Australia is working across the globe to assist those who face challenges due to a changing climate.

Read three case studies from our climate work.

Here's some brief examples of how we support local communities:

  •  In the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Caritas is working with our local partners to help build their resilience to natural disasters such as typhoons which are becoming more frequent and intense with climate change.
  • In the Philippines, we are supporting communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan to rebuild their homes. We are also supporting coastal resource management programs that help protect against storm surges.
  • In Fiji, Caritas is working with Tutu Training College to ensure all young farmers know how to protect their crops from the increasing threat of cyclones.
  • In Bangladesh, Caritas is supporting education and training programs to address the agricultural and livelihood challenges which local communities are facing as a result of increased salinity due to storm surges and sea level rise.
  • In Australia, we are supporting one of our First Australian partners to develop carbon credit projects that help mitigate climate change and also provide employment for remote communities.
  • In Indonesia, we support a climate forecasting project which helps farmers know which crops to plant in response to a more variable climate.  We have also supported the work of Down to Earth, an organisation which promotes greater inclusion of local communities in the development of policies concerning use of the land and natural resources on which their livelihoods depend.

I took part in A Just Climate – what happened?

Thousands of Caritas supporters took action for A Just Climate in 2011 and 2012 to ensure that the world's poor are heard in both national and international discussions about how best to address the challenges posed by climate change. Our supporters raised awareness in their community by hosting A Just Climate event, engaging in conversations with local politicians, or taking personal action to reduce their ecological footprint. Their engagement contributed to a core message: We want a just climate for the world's poor!

Over 1500 supporters signed our petition calling for more action to help developing countries deal with climate change. In September 2011, Kateia Kaikai from Kiribati and Caritas Australia's Alexandra Engel presented the petition to Climate Change Minister Greg Combet.

Read more »

Won’t phasing out fossil fuels make energy more expensive for people in poorer countries?

The question of economics is often used to try and deflect the climate debate – with suggestions that challenging the status quo will impede the economic progress of developing countries. But the Papal Encyclical leaves us in no doubt that the pursuit of purely economic growth by richer countries is leading to exploitation of natural resources and contributing to a growing chasm between the world’s richest and poorest. The use of fossil fuels has to be cut among the rich, not the poor.

The majority (84 percent) of people living without energy access throughout Africa and India live in rural and remote areas. These areas would benefit most from renewables rather than fossil fuels because:

  • Renewable energy doesn’t demand the huge power plants and heavy network of transmission lines required by fossil fuel power – these rural areas are far from power plants and transmission lines.
  • Renewables allow developing countries to leapfrog a cost-intensive, inefficient grid in developing countries – it’s like skipping the building of landlines in developing countries and moving straight to the more advanced technology of cell phones.
  • Installation is quick – it can take years to build fossil fuel plants, but a solar panel can be installed on a roof in one day and a whole solar plant built in as little as three months.