New York CNN Business  — 

The Vatican is urging Catholics and the private sector to “progressively and without delay” divest from fossil fuel producers and other entities that perpetuate climate change.

The announcement was made Thursday in “Laudato Si,” a Vatican encyclical written by Pope Francis that is something of a best practices manual for church leaders and workers. In it, the pope said that “less harmful alternatives can be used transiently” and called on richer countries to help finance the costs so they don’t “fall disproportionately on the poorest countries.”

“Building safe, accessible, reliable and efficient energy systems based on renewable energy sources would make it possible to respond to the needs of the poorest populations and at the same time limit global warming,” Francis said.

The pope called on Catholics to avoid “support for companies harmful to human or social ecology,” such as weapon makers and abortion providers, as well as the fossil fuel industry.

Vatican News, the Holy See’s official press website, also said that Francis is calling for carbon dioxide emissions to be taxed.

“The seas and oceans also cut to the heart of integral ecology. They are the ‘blue lungs of the planet,’ and require governance focused on the common good of the entire human family and founded on the principle of subsidiarity,” the website says.

The Vatican’s call follows an announcement last month from more than 40 faith organizations from 14 countries that they are divesting from fossil fuel companies, which, according to the Catholic online news publication Crux is the “largest ever such joint announcement from religious organizations.”

Carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high last year. In 2019, the world pumped out almost 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide, driven by demand for oil and natural gas, according to an annual report from the Global Carbon Project, an international research initiative focused on sustainability.

However, global lockdowns implemented this year to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are bringing emissions down, and researchers estimate annual emissions could fall by between 4.4% and 8%. That would mark the largest annual decrease in carbon emissions since World War II, according to findings published last month in the journal Nature Climate Change.

–CNN’s Valentina DiDonato contributed to this report.