A Busy Day at the Vatican

Pope Francis - EPA.jpg

Pope Francis today sent a message of encouragement to the COP23 delegates labouring in Bonn. In keeping with his previous encyclical on ecology, he stressed the need to fight poverty and promote "true human development"—laudable goals indeed. But what is attracting the attention of the secular world is the pontiff's strongly worded insistence that debate on global climate policy be limited to those holding orthodox views on the subject. "We should avoid falling into the trap of these four perverse attitudes," he writes, "which certainly do not help honest research or sincere and productive dialogue on building the future of our planet: denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions."

Leaving  aside humanity's most daunting climate-related ethical challenges—whether the Paris goals are achievable, whether the trillions of dollars required to meet them would be better spent on other mitigation strategies, whether we will have to buy time en route to a carbon-free future by geoengineering the Earth—we might well ask whether those in attendance at COP23 are themselves succumbing to "trust in inadequate solutions"—Chancellor Merkel, for instance, who yesterday reassured disbelieving German protesters that their country's reliance on coal can be "solved in a calm and reliable manner," or President Macron, whose country derives 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power (which Germany has outlawed). And what of our own Catherine McKenna, who has flown into Bonn to advocate for "a global alliance to eliminate coal-fired electricity" even though Canada is still exporting coal? According to the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index, Canada ranks 51st out of the 60 countries vetted, with "very low" ratings in both GHG-reduction targets and overall energy use, but "very high grades for its performance in international climate diplomacy." Climate politicking circa 2017 may not be perverse exactly, but it's certainly tricky.

Pope Francis cannot be unaware of this obvious truth. Back at the Vatican, having congratulated COP23 participants, the pontiff made his way out to the parking lot to take receipt of a Lamborghini Huracán, presented to him as a gift from the famed Italian automaker. The $200,000 Huracán model, painted in papal white and yellow, comes with a standard 602 hp, 5.2-litre (ten-cylinder) gas-powered engine. The Pope, who drives a 2008 Ford Focus, has directed Vatican officials to auction off the Lamborghini, with proceeds going to three of his favourite charities. That's one way to decarbonize.