Frequently asked questions
Why does Caritas Australia advocate for action on climate change?
In a nutshell:
Caritas Australia advocates for climate change action because many of the communities we serve are already suffering the harsh impacts of climate change, and because senior Church figures in the Pacific and Asia have directly asked us to. We are also responding to the call from other global Church leaders to act on climate, including Pope Francis, the Federation of Catholics Bishops Conferences of Oceania, the Caritas Oceania forum and the head of Caritas Internationalis.
We can no longer end poverty and injustice without tackling climate change
We cannot tackle poverty without addressing the issue of climate change. Caritas Australia works with communities in 17 countries, many of whom are already experiencing the harsh impacts of climate change. They have told us the farming seasons are becoming more unpredictable, the rising seas are taking away land, droughts are lasting longer, fresh water is becoming scarcer, and extreme weather events such as cyclones and storm surges are becoming more intense and damaging. It is clear that climate change is a significant risk to the health, security and livelihoods of communities across the world but particularly in the poorest communities. As Pope Francis has said in Laudato Si’, “Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest”. Climate change is exacerbating existing development challenges and is undoing decades of our work together to improve people’s lives.
Climate change is also one of the greatest injustices of our time. The people who have done the least to cause climate change are suffering the most.
Church leaders have asked us to advocate for climate justice
The impetus for this work began in 2013-15 during visits by our then Chair and CEO to a number of Pacific Island and Asian partners. In virtually all of these visits with Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and lay leaders, they told us about the worsening situation for farming and fishing communities in their countries. They specifically referred to concerns about reduced predictability for the timing of planting crops and, in the case of fishing communities, of significant changes in assessing when to go out to sea for their catches.
Even before the Holy Father released his encyclical Laudato Si’: on Care for our Common Home, the Federation of Oceania Catholic Bishops (of which our Bishops Conference in a member) had spoken robustly about climate change and the need to be more active in reducing emissions (here is a link to their April 2018 statement). The 2018 Caritas Oceania forum with Cardinals, Bishops and all lay Caritas leaders also reiterated that theme.
Alongside the Pope’s active campaigning on this matter, many other parts of the global Church have also increased their work. Caritas Internationalis made climate change its over-arching theme for its five year strategic plan. The President of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Tagle, has often spoken in the mainstream and Catholic media about this theme.
Our commitment to a just world, including a sustainable environment for current and future generations is unwavering.
Why do we call for fairer climate policies in Australia?
Caritas Australia’s mission is to end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity, so it’s our responsibility to address the structural injustices which are the root causes of poverty, rather than just the symptoms of poverty. That is why we advocate for fairer policies.
Caritas Australia advocates for attitudes, policies and actions that uphold Catholic Social Teaching principles, from all people. This includes people who have decision-making responsibilities including political leaders, regardless of their political party.
Pope Francis speaks of the responsibility of non-government organisations such as Caritas Australia to take action, saying, “Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediate groups, must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls.” [Laudato Si’, para 179]
On climate change, we believe that it is Australia’s responsibility as a just, compassionate global neighbour to do its fair share to tackle climate change, in line with the globally-agreed Paris Agreement. This includes reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and providing our fair share of global funding to help poorer countries adapt to climate change. Advocating for such policies upholds the dignity and rights of people everywhere.