U.N. chief: Listen to Pope Francis on climate action

Story highlights

  • Ban Ki-moon: Pope Francis clearly articulated that climate change is a moral issue
  • Pope is right - we have responsibilities to the planet and to future generations to act on climate now

Ban Ki-moon is secretary-general of the United Nations. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)I was honored to host His Holiness Pope Francis for a historic visit to the United Nations on the day that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be adopted by some 150 world leaders. His has been a leading voice for urgent action to reduce poverty, enhance human dignity and protect the planet, our common home.

Building on the remarkable gains made over the past 15 years under the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, the new agenda -- including a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) -- will guide us in finishing the job while working more deeply and broadly toward a future of dignity for all.
Ban Ki-moon
The new agenda is comprehensive, reflecting the complexity of today's world. It is integrated, taking into account the links among the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. With its connections to justice, institutions and inclusiveness, the agenda can help the world peacefully navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing world on a planet with limited resources. Pope Francis has called on people everywhere to work toward realizing the SDGs "with generosity and courage."
    With the adoption of the new agenda, attention now turns to the next big test of international commitment: the December climate conference in Paris, where U.N. member states will gather seeking to adopt a new, universal and meaningful climate agreement.
    Pope Francis, in his recent encyclical, clearly articulated that climate change is a moral issue, and one of the principal challenges facing humanity. He rightly cited the solid scientific consensus showing significant warming of the climate system, with most global warming in recent decades mainly a result of human activity. And he has emphasized the critical need to support the poorest and most vulnerable members of our human family from a crisis they did least to cause, but from which they suffer most.
    Other faith leaders are also speaking out, demonstrating the congruence between religion and science on this issue. Just last month, a major international gathering of Islamic leaders and scholars issued a strong declaration calling for collective action on climate change. I commend the leadership of these and other faith groups that have publicly called for urgent steps to protect people and the planet from devastating climate impacts.
    Faith leaders can have enormous influence -- as bridge builders, as defenders of the marginalized and excluded, as proponents of the universal values that connect all faiths and traditions, and as role models who speak out against hatred. At a time of multiple conflicts, rising extremism and discrimination against migrants and refugees, that role is more important than ever.
    Pope Francis also wrote about our responsibilities to each other, to the planet and to future generations. As the United Nations marks its 70th anniversary, we look forward to working with all people and partners to realize our founding Charter's vision of a peaceful world where no one is left behind, and where all people live in harmony with the ecosystems that sustain us, and with each other.