Vatican to host meetings on Climate Change, Human Trafficking

2015-07-15 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to discuss two meetings taking place in the Vatican next week on climate change, human trafficking, and sustainable development.

The meetings will bring together mayors from around the world, to discuss how cities can help contribute to the solution of some of these problems facing humanity.

The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences will host the workshop “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: the Commitment of the Cities” and the symposium “Prosperity, People, and Planet: Achieving Sustainable Development in Our Cities” in the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV on 21 - 22 July 2015, for the first time bringing a group of international mayors to the Vatican.

The Chancellor of the Academy, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, said the climate crisis and modern slavery were “interconnected emergencies,” stating that “although the poor and the excluded have the least effect on climate change… they are the  most exposed to the terrible threat posed by human-induced climate disruption.”

Bishop Sánchez said in this fundamental moral context, cities and their mayors play a key role.

“Currently, most of humanity is concentrated in formal and informal urban settlements and this trend is set to increase,” he said.

“We intend for the mayors to commit to promoting the empowerment of the poor and of those  who live in vulnerable conditions in our cities and in our urban settlements, reducing their exposure to  extreme weather events caused by radical environmental, economic and social instabilities, which  create fertile ground for forced migration and human trafficking,” he said.


The full prepared remarks by Bishop Sánchez are below, followed by comments from participating mayors

The remarks by Bishop Sánchez

We are here today to talk about the meeting of July 21, in which the mayors of the world will examine two interconnected emergencies: the climate crisis and modern slavery. I think it's the first time the mayors are invited to the Vatican.

The Mayors

Why the mayors? When the Santa Marta Group was founded by the Pope, Cardinal Nichols and a few bishops a couple of years ago at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to  bring together police chiefs and bishops from all over the world, the police chiefs stressed the importance of having the bishops support their moral commitment towards the poorest of the poor.

However, they also pointed out that they report not to the bishops but to the governors, and in many cases to the mayors. Following their advice, we have thus tried to bring together the mayors to determine the best practices to mitigate climate change and eradicate modern slavery.

Anthropic Global Warming

As stated in Laudato si’, “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life” (§23). The Pope adds that there is a very solid scientific consensus indicating that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. As the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has shown in several studies, available as free downloads on our website, this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level. Moreover, it’s difficult not to link it to extreme  weather events such as prolonged drought, heat waves and destructive storms, which are becoming  more and more frequent.

Humanity, therefore, is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes, which produce or aggravate it. As the Pope says in Laudato si’, "The problem is aggravated by a model of development  based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system" (§23).

Relativism: The Other As a Mere Object

According to Laudato si’, these human-induced climate-related phenomena, coupled with the culture of relativism, encourage individuals to take advantage of other individuals as mere objects, using them for forced labour or enslaving them. Pope Francis believes this is the same logic that leads  to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests.

Links Between the Climate Crisis and Social Exclusion

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences agrees with the Holy Father that there is a clear link between the two human-induced emergencies of the climate crisis and the social crisis. Following the  Encyclical, our commitment is to make the whole of society aware of these phenomena and of the  human responsibilities of these crises and to react firmly, as a new moral imperative for all of humanity  in favour of the common good.

In this fundamental moral context, cities and their mayors play a key role. Currently, most of humanity is concentrated in formal and informal urban settlements and this trend is set to increase. Each of our cultural traditions also affirms the inherent dignity and the social responsibility of each individual in relation to the common good. They emphasize the importance of living together in the polis for the fulfilment of the social, cultural and religious identity of every human being and for the beauty, wonder and inherent goodness of the world, recognizing it as a precious gift that supports life  and is entrusted to our stewardship. It is not a matter of preserving it as in a museum, but of developing  it according to its potential, following the very laws of nature. Respecting and developing “our  common home” rather than devastating it is a moral imperative.

The Poor and the Excluded Are the Most Exposed

As the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences has remarked, although the poor and the excluded have the least effect on climate change and often live on the outskirts of the city, they are the  most exposed to the terrible threat posed by human-induced climate disruption. However, the world  now has within reach the scientific knowledge, technological tools and financial means to reverse  anthropogenic climate change, while ending extreme poverty at the same time through solutions that  include renewable and low carbon emission energy sources.

We therefore hope to achieve that "integral ecology" proposed by Laudato si' "to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator  who lives among us and surrounds us” (§225), particularly in the cities in which we lead our social life.

Financing the initiative in favour of this "integral ecology", including the decisive containment of  human induced climate change, could also be based on the relentless pursuit of peace, which would  allow a redistribution of public spending from military expenditure towards urgent investments for the  benefit of social inclusion and the effective monitoring of carbon emissions, particularly in the cities.

The Mayors’ Commitment

We intend for the mayors to commit to promoting the empowerment of the poor and of those who live in vulnerable conditions in our cities and in our urban settlements, reducing their exposure to  extreme weather events caused by radical environmental, economic and social instabilities, which  create fertile ground for forced migration and human trafficking.

At the same time, we would like the mayors to commit to put an end to abuse, exploitation,  human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery within their communities. These tragic occurrences,  which Pope Benedict and Pope Francis termed “crimes against humanity,” also include forced labour,  prostitution, organ trafficking and domestic servitude.

We would also like the mayors to commit to developing resettlement and social integration programmes for the victims, at the national and local levels, in order to avoid their involuntary repatriation (cfr. The PASS’ revision of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, no. 16.2).

In short, we would like our cities and urban settlements to become more socially inclusive, safe, resilient and ecologically integrated (cfr. UN Sustainable Development Goals, no. 11).


Workshop “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: the Commitment of the Cities”

Symposium “Prosperity, People and Planet: Achieving Sustainable Development in Our Cities”

(Vatican City, Casina Pio IV, 21 to 22 July 2015)


Quotes from Mayors, Governors, State Secretaries (alphabetical order):


Belo Horizonte Mayor and President of National Front of Mayor Marcio Lacerda: "We'll bring the Pope a successful strategy to overcome poverty [and promote] social and productive inclusion. We, Brazilian mayors, are promoting training, micro-credit and entrepreneurship to generate employment and income, guaranteeing dignity to the poor. We have shown that we are able to implement effective public policies that are inclusive and have been rescuing millions of Brazilians out of extreme poverty.”

Berlin Senate Permanent Secretary Christian Gaebler: “Roughly 60 percent of the global population lives in cities. These 60 percent are responsible for about 70-80 percent of global energy production and, at the same time are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. There are a number of challenges that we are facing and try to keep up with. To make up the challenges, the Berlin Senate set the goal for the city to become climate neutral by 2050.  The city of Berlin will present its climate and energy policy, being aware of our responsibility as an European capital and openly aim at being a frontrunner in climate protection and energy policy.”

Birmingham Mayor, and Human Rights First Ambassador, The Honorable William A. Bell: "Eradicating human trafficking, the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, will require a coordinated effort from faith leaders, business leaders, governments, and law enforcement from around the world. I look forward to this important opportunity to build partnerships with the Vatican and other government leaders to develop solutions to address this horrific human rights problem."

Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro Urrego: "Today we have a deep conflict between humanity and the market, for that reason we will see increasing social mobilization, seeking to defend life in a territory affected by inequality and climate change. I invite you to experience in September 2015 from 20 to 23, the Bogotá Climate Summit."  

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh: "I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the City of Boston at the Vatican to discuss the vital issues of human trafficking and protecting our environment. I look forward to joining my peers from around the world to collaborate on how we can prepare our cities for the future." 

Boulder Mayor Matthew Appelbaum: “Boulder is honored to join in discussion with Pope Francis and this group of global cities that have shown leadership through their actions to address the climate crisis. The City of Boulder has long prioritized environmental stewardship and sustainability through partnerships with our federal labs, the University of Colorado, local businesses, non-profits, and our very supportive citizens. Boulder and all local governments have essential roles in developing and implementing policies and technical solutions to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change, and working together to find innovative and responsible environmental actions that can be adopted globally.”

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.: "In the spirit of the pope's encyclical this unprecedented gathering of global leaders is a wake up call to face up to the common threats of climate change and human exploitation. This is about the future of humanity and how we as human beings live and treat one another and the natural world around us."

Guédiawaye Mayor and President of the National Association of Mayors of Senegal (AMS)  Mr Aliou SALL: "Development is a matter of harmony, balance and balance between the needs and concerns of the population on one hand and the available resources available and on the other, respect for human dignity, respecting of nature, and in compliance with the principles of peace , for a just and sustainable world. “

Kingston Mayor, Senator, Councilor Dr. Angela Brown Burke, J.P.: “Here in Jamaica we are constantly reminded of our contribution to and the effects of human-induced climate change as we experience hotter days and nights, less rainfall and longer periods of drought. And even as global and economic development are top of the agenda, we are mindful of our symbiotic relationship with the environment – the oxygen that is produced by plants is vital to our continued existence and plants cannot survive without the carbon dioxide we exhale. I am grateful that we (Jamaica) have been afforded the opportunity to participate in these meetings where we can explore and share ideas on how we can live up to our God-given mandate as ordained custodians of the earth.”

Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany: "The threat of climate change is looming large over our planet and its aftermath certainly is going change the world order and system. We all need to work together to address the issue on a global, national and local level. The Vatican summit on the subject, we hope, would change the way our nations and cities are going to address the issue. We hope nations and cities would ensure their commitment.  Let us all work together towards making our planet more resilient through cooperation between institutions and individuals, and science and governance."

Lubumbashi Mayor Jean Oscar Sanguza Mutunda: "Lubumbashi, city of peace, is working alongside other cities in the fight against poverty and environmental degradation, and supports the search for lasting solutions against climate change.”

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa: “Mayors of cities have the responsibility to ensure the enhancement of social fabric recognizing the close relationship between environmental degradation and poverty. The policies implemented from cities aimed to protect the environment will help the development of vulnerable populations, social harmony, social inclusion and the integrity and safety of all citizens.”

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges: “I am deeply thankful that Pope Francis is tackling issues of such grave importance not only to my city of Minneapolis but to the world. It’s an honor to have been asked to join the upcoming gathering at the Vatican. I look forward to learning how Minneapolis can join hands in global efforts around climate change and ending the factors that contribute to 21st century trade in human beings, and to share the successes we that we as a city have achieved.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu: “It is an honor and privilege to join His Holiness Pope Francis as he brings together this group of international leaders for an action-oriented gathering about opportunities and challenges facing local governments. This type of honest, proactive collaboration will help create more peaceful, prosperous and resilient communities around the world.”

Oslo Mayor Stian Berger Røsland: "I am very much looking forward to discuss sustainable development of our cities to reduce global climate change and by arranging this symposiums, The Vatican is contributing to find the viable long term solutions we all work towards. When we say humans must, and can, reduce our climate gas emissions, people do not envision a good public transport system or responsible building legislation. But when cities emit 70% of the world’s CO2, clearly, we do have game-changing tools."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo: "Modern slavery and climate disruption are two major and intertwined issues for our capital cities.  We shall face these challenges collectively, engaging the political and spiritual forces of our local communities.”

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales: “We are going to the Vatican to listen, of course, but also to tell the Portland story: We have made great strides in protecting our environment. Portland was acting on carbon reduction before many cities, states and countries started talking about carbon. I want to hear from the other participants, but I want them to hear our story, too.”

Porto Alegre Mayor José Fortunati: "The world is changing quickly and, in this new context, cities increasingly gain prominent roles not only in the implementation, but also in the definition of policies in matters of global interest, such as the issue of climate change, environmental protection and sustainable development. The call of Pope Francis for cities to debate and present effective proposals for the solution of these modern problems is very important in order to establish a common and shared global agenda, focusing on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and fighting poverty and social inequalities. Municipalities have an extremely important protagonism in mobilizing the population to the appropriation of public spaces and to the sense of belonging. That is, the city is our home and we all have responsibilities and commitments to it and to the planet. The Capital of Rio Grande do Sul, for example, is a reference in the empowerment of citizens, which helps the government to set priorities through the participatory budget."

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes: "Pope Francis has been an example of inspiring leadership, and I commend His Holiness for placing the urgent matter of sustainability in the center of the universal discussion.  By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world's population is expected to live in cities, so to stimulate urban sustainability is key to contain consumption of natural resources while diminishing the impacts of climate change on people's daily lives and social conditions.  C40 cities have the potential to reduce their annual cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 1 billion tons by 2020, which shows that together and coordinated, leaders have the power to protect the cities, our common home.”

Rome Mayor Ignazio R. Marino:  "Addressing climate change and its effects presents a double and global challenge: the first priority is "mitigation," that is limiting further climate change by reducing the production of greenhouse gas. The second is "adaptation," that means preparing the impact of climate change that is now inevitable to save planet Earth. It is essential that climate change be tackled in an integrated way. Choosing between mitigation and adaptation is comparable to the choice between repairing defective brakes of a bicycle and buying a helmet instead. Functioning brakes help prevent accidents, whereas the helmet is intended to prevent disaster. Rome is committed to create a permanent network between cities wishing to engage in the fight against climate change thanks to good energy saving practices. Because climate change is a terrific challenge for the future and a major need to shape the city also for the next generations.

Rosario Mayor Mónica Fein: “The cities have the opportunity to build transformations that allow equal opportunities to those who are less fortunate. They can also take care of the common house with integrated policies, which will ensure a better future for generations to come. I am sure that this meeting, organized by Pope Francis, will help us come up with new ideas on how to take action regarding these two dramatic emergencies, which are the climate change crisis and the news forms of slavery.  We believe that one of the main topics in this discussion should be how could a common citizen get involved and aid us with these ideas. We think it is important that every citizen has the right to take part in these transformations so that they can maintain a stable environment where we can incorporate new policies regarding waste management, alternative energy, sustainable mobility, inclusion and equal rights.”

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee: “We must act urgently to combat climate change and end human suffering, and I am honored to join Pope Francis in a global call to action. I am eager to join this historic gathering of national and international leaders, including Governor Jerry Brown, to share how San Francisco has reached and exceeded aggressive climate change goals even while growing the economy and seeing increases in our population. We can and will act locally to make meaningful change globally."

São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad: "Contemporary cities have been suffocated by the privatization of public spaces, individualism and consumerism. This process has very strong impacts on the environmental and socio economic balance, risking human survival. The role of mayors is to give priority attention to this issue.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray: “Seattle is an innovative leader in sustainability and carbon reduction, but too often the benefits of our progress are not equitably shared. Our most at-risk communities, low-income families, and communities of color are disproportionally impacted by climate change. Seattle is committed to changing this through our Equity and Environment Initiative to ensure strong social justice outcomes in our environmental policy. I’m humbled to have the opportunity to share this experience with global leaders as we heed the Pope’s call for action.”

UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland:  "Climate change is dramatically increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters around the world. This in turn is contributing to the ever-increasing displacement of vulnerable people, many of whom have become easy targets for human traffickers. The re-emergence of slavery is one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime and we crucially need a post-2015 UN development agenda that locates the fight against modern slavery at the heart of both humanitarian response efforts and the strategy to promote sustainable and long-term development. Pope Francis and the Pontifical Academies are giving us the leadership and moral authority to realize this essential objective."

Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngård:  “Intercity cooperation is vital to address many of the social, economic and ecological challenges facing the international community. This meeting is a crucial step on the path towards sustainable development.”

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson:  “Climate change is the most urgent challenge facing humanity today, and it is a remarkable honor to be invited by Pope Francis to discuss how cities and the global community can and must act in concert to drastically reduce climate pollution. Pope Francis' leadership will build on the resounding unity of big cities worldwide in calling for meaningful and binding emissions targets, and for a climate agreement signed in Paris that respects the needs of our cities, our planet and the generations to come.”


List of participants


Mr. Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor of California

Ms. Betsy Hodges (Minneapolis)

Mr. Ed Murray (Seattle)

Mr. Charlie Hales (Portland)

Mr. Marty Walsh (Boston)

Mr. Mitch Landrieu (New Orleans)

Ms. Anne Hidalgo (Paris)

Mr. Stian Berger Røsland (Oslo)

Mr. Ignazio Marino (Rome)

Mr. Dario Nardella (Florence)

Mr. Luigi de Magistris (Naples)

Ms. Giusi Nicolini (Lampedusa, Italy)

Mr. Piero Fassino (President of the Italian Municipalities Association and Mayor of Turin, Italy)

Mr. Antonio Decaro (Bari, Italy)

Mr. Gregor Robertson (Vancouver, CA)

Mr. Eduardo Paes (Rio de Janeiro)

Mr. Eduardo Accastello (Villa Maria, Argentina)

Mr. Tony Chammany (Kochi, India)

Dr. Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Tehran, Iran)

Prof. Julius Ihonvbere (Edo State, Nigeria)

Mr Mambé (Governor of the Autonomus District d’Abidjan)

Madame Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda (Libreville, Gabon)

Mr. Aliou Sall, Mayor of Guédiawaye and President of the National Association of Mayors of Senegal

Mr. Jarosław Jóźwiak (Deputy-Mayor of Warsaw)

Ms. Yelgi Lavinia Verley Knight (Siquirres, Costa Rica)

Hon. Alfred Martin Aruo (Soroti, Uganda)

Ms. Karin Wanngård (Stockholm)

Ms. Angela Brown-Burke (Kingston, Jamaica)

Mr. Matthew Appelbaum (Boulder, Colorado)

Mr. Witold Śmiałek (Advisor to the Mayor of Krakow)

Mr. Marcio Lacerda (Belo Horizonte)

Mr. Fernando Haddad (Sao Paulo)

Ms. Mónica Fein (Rosario)

Mr. Gustavo Petro (Bogotá)

Mr. Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa (Mexico City)

Mr. George Ferguson (Bristol)

Mr. José Fortunati (Porto Alegre)

Mr. Christian Gaebler (State Secretary for Transport and Environment, Berlin)

Mr. William A. Bell (Birmingham, Alabama)

Mr. Milan Bandic (Zagreb)

Mr. Enzo Bianco (Catania)

Mr. Edwin Lee (San Francisco)

Mr. Leoluca Orlando (Palermo)

Mr. Massimo Zedda (Cagliari)

Mr. Sam Liccardo (San José, California)

Mr. Mpho Parks Tau (Johannesburg)

Honorable Mr Kagiso Thutlwe (Gaborone, Botswana)

Mr. Paulo Garcia (Goiânia)

Mr. Gustavo Fruet (Curitiba)

Mr. Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije (Accra)

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester)

Ms. Manuela Carmena (Madrid)

Mr. Mahamudo Amurane (Nampula)

Mr. Giuliano Pisapia (Milan)

Mr. Antônio Carlos  Magalhães Neto (Salvador)

Mr. Nasereddine Zenasni (Algiers)

Mr. Virginio Merola (Bologna)

Mr. Giorgio Gori (Bergamo)

Mr. Jean Oscar Sanguza Mutunda (Lubumbashi)

Mr. Federico Pizzarotti (Parma)

(from Vatican Radio)