U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Pope Francis at the Vatican on Tuesday and declared in a speech that tackling climate change is the one world issue that should unite all religious leaders, scientists and scholars. The leaders also agreed that man-made climate change is a "scientific reality."
"If ever there were an issue that requires unity of purpose it is climate change," the U.N. head said at a workshop titled "Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development" organized by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Vatican and the U.N. issued a joint declaration at the end of meeting, which read: "Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity."
Ban insisted that worldwide changes are needed if development can continue without destruction, Catholic News Service reported. He said that "to transform our economies, however, we must first transform our thinking, and our values. In this, the world's religions can provide valuable leadership."
Both the U.N. and the Vatican have spoken out strongly on the need to address climate change, with Francis calling on mankind to "see through the eyes of God the Creator" rather than exploit and manipulate the planet.
"The relationship of mankind with nature must not be conducted with greed, manipulation and exploitation, but it must conserve the divine harmony that exists between creatures and Creation within the logic of respect and care, so it can be put to the service of our brothers, also of future generations," Francis said in his Earth Day speech last week.
Reuters noted that Ban spoke before some 60 scientists, religious leaders and diplomats hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, and urged industrialized countries to invest in clean energy.
"Mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects are necessary to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and secure equitable, sustainable economic development," he told the attendees.
Francis is set to release a major encyclical over the summer addressed to the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, which will tackle the issues of climate change and protecting the environment.
"It (the encyclical) will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience," Ban said.
The U.N. leader also thanked Francis for accepting his invitation to speak before the General Assembly in New York on Sept. 25, during the pontiff's first ever visit to the United States.
"Eradicating extreme poverty, ending social exclusion of the weak and marginalized, and protecting the environment are values that are fully consistent with the teachings of the great religions," Ban added.
"Pope Francis has been one of the world's most impassioned moral voices on these issues, and I applaud his leadership."
Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said that the Bible offers important messages about caring for the planet.
"The lesson from the Garden of Eden still rings true today: pride, hubris and self-centeredness are always perilous, indeed destructive," Turkson said.
"The very technology that has brought great reward is now poised to bring great ruin," he said, as "the ever-accelerated burning of fossil fuels that powers our economic engine is disrupting the earth's delicate ecological balance on an almost unfathomable scale."