VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI called for urgent action to protect the environment, saying Tuesday that climate change and natural catastrophes threaten the rights to life, food, health – and ultimately peace.
In his annual message on the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, the pope argued that the world's economic, social, and environmental problems are moral crises that require mankind to rethink its way of living.
"We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles," he said, touching again on a theme that has earned him a reputation as the "green pope."
Benedict called on advanced societies to adopt "more sober lifestyles," reducing energy consumption and favoring energy-efficient policies. He encouraged research into ways to exploit solar energy, to manage forests and to improve waste disposal.
Action is more pressing than ever "in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously," he said.
The Roman Catholic Church marks the World Day of Peace on Jan.1. but the pope's message to world leaders is released by the Vatican in advance. The message this year comes as world leaders are arriving for high-profile climate talks in Copenhagen designed to hammer out a deal to curb emissions of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
Noting that climate change, and resulting desertification, could push millions into poverty, hunger, conflict and displacement, the pope said: "All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development."
Benedict said industrialized countries should recognize their responsibility for the current environmental crisis and show solidarity toward developing nations. However, emerging countries are not exempt from their own responsibility and there is a need for internationally-coordinated action, he said.
Talks in Copenhagen hit a snag Monday when developing countries temporarily boycotted, fearing wealthier countries were going back on promises to cut greenhouse gases. Deep divisions remain between rich and poor countries, particularly over financing for developing countries to deal with global warming.
Environmental protection is a theme close to Benedict's heart and he has made frequent calls to save the planet.
During his papacy, the Vatican has been taking steps toward greater environmental sustainability, joining a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions, and has installed solar cells on the roof of its main auditorium.
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