Oct 9, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Pope Francis bows out of climate summit

Pope Francis. Photo by Stefano Spaziani/Archivio Spaziani/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Pope Francis is no longer planning to attend the critical United Nations climate summit that begins in three weeks in Glasgow, Scotland, the Vatican announced Friday.

Why it matters: Francis' attendance, given his global stature, could have helped provide momentum to what are expected to be difficult talks aimed at spurring more aggressive steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Emissions and finance pledges under the Paris climate agreement are non-binding and at each nation's discretion, so diplomacy and persuasion are important to securing stronger action.

Driving the news: The Vatican's delegation will be lead by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, according to Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office.

What we're watching: The rest of the RSVP list for the heads of state portion that occurs early in the two-week summit that starts Oct. 31.

  • President Biden is slated to attend along with many other leaders, but plans by heads of some key nations remain unclear.
  • In particular, officials in China — the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter — have not said whether President Xi Jinping will go.

The big picture: The summit, known as COP26, comes as global emissions are nowhere close to beginning the steep downward path needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

  • The agreement calls for limiting warming to "well below" 2°C compared to preindustrial levels, and ideally limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.
  • Those are benchmarks for avoiding some of the worst harms and risks from climate change beyond the damaging effects already taking hold and sure to worsen.
Go deeper