VATICAN CITY – Mayors from around the world declared Tuesday that climate change is real, man-made and must be stopped as a matter of moral imperative, gathering at the Vatican to announce new measures to fight global warming and bask in Pope Francis’ ecological star power.
The Vatican invited the 60 mayors to a two-day conference to keep up pressure on world leaders ahead of U.N. climate negotiations in Paris later this year. The meeting also aimed to promote Francis’ environment encyclical, which denounced what he calls a fossil fuel-based world economy that exploits the poor and destroys the Earth.
One by one, the mayors lined up to sign a final declaration stating that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.”
Francis told the gathering that he had “a lot of hope” that the Paris negotiations would succeed, but also warned the mayors: “You are the conscience of humanity.”
Experts have long said that cities are key to reducing global warming since urban areas account for nearly three-quarters of human emissions. Mayor after mayor made an individual plea Tuesday for the world to change its ways.
Drawing rousing applause, California Gov. Jerry Brown denounced global warming deniers who he said were “bamboozling” the public and politicians with false information to persuade them that the world isn’t getting warmer. California has enacted the toughest greenhouse gas emissions standards in North America.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new greenhouse gas emissions targets for the Big Apple – committing the city to reducing its emissions 40 percent by 2030 – and urged other cities to follow suit.
De Blasio is a founding member of an alliance of world cities that have committed to reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050 or sooner.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee announced new measures of his own, saying the city that takes its name from the pope’s nature-loving namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, would transition its municipal fleet of fire trucks, buses and trucks from petroleum diesel to renewable energy sources by the end of the year.
Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngard said the Paris climate talks in December must take fossil fuels off the table and focus instead on renewable energy sources.
Stockholm is one of the world’s leaders in using renewable energy sources, with 75 percent of the city’s public transport network running on renewable energy. Wanngard’s goal is to make the Swedish capital fossil fuel-free by 2040.
The climax of Tuesday’s inaugural session was the afternoon audience with Francis, who has become a hero to the environmental movement and has used his moral authority and enormous popularity to focus world attention on climate change and its effects on the poor.