VATICAN CITY - Catholic patriarchs, cardinals and bishops representing five continents appealed to climate negotiators on Monday to approve a "transformative" and fair, legally binding agreement that sets global temperature limits and decarbonization goals to save the planet from climate-induced catastrophe.
The representatives of bishops' conferences from around the globe signed the appeal in a renewed push to encourage climate negotiators meeting in Paris next month to heed Pope Francis' call to protect God's creation and the poor who suffer most from its exploitation.
The 10-point proposal calls for governments to approve legally binding limits to global average temperatures, set a mid-century goal for complete decarbonization and provide binding and ambitious mitigation commitments that recognize the different responsibilities for, and abilities to adapt to, global warming.
No precise temperature limit was proposed in the appeal. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who heads the Asian bishops' conference, suggested the omission was a compromise designed to ensure all bishops could sign onto the appeal, which is the first of its kind for the episcopal conferences from each of the five continents.
In his landmark encyclical "Praise Be," Francis denounced what he called the "structurally perverse" fossil fuel-based world economy that he says exploits the poor and destroys the Earth in the process.
The bishops from Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Oceania were somewhat more reserved, recognizing that "accelerated climate change" is the result of "unrestrained human activity ... and that excessive reliance on fossil fuels is primarily responsible."
"The building and maintenance of a sustainable common home requires courageous and imaginative political leadership," the appeal said. "Legal frameworks are required which clearly establish boundaries and ensure the protection of the ecosystem."