Statement by H.E. Archbishop Celestino
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
62nd session of the UN General Assembly
Before the Second Committee, on item 54: Sustainable Development
New York, 29 October 2007
The Plan of Implementation adopted at
the conclusion of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in
Johannesburg reaffirms that poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns
of production and consumption, and protecting and managing the natural resource
base of economic and social development are overarching objectives of, and
essential requirements for sustainable development. It repeatedly
reasserts that the three components of sustainable development — economic
development, social development and environmental protection — are
interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars.
My delegation believes that protecting the environment means more than
defending it. Protecting the environment implies a more positive vision of the
human being, in the sense that the person is not considered a nuisance or a
threat to the environment, but one who holds oneself responsible for the care
and management of the environment. In this sense, not only is there no
opposition between the human being and the environment, there is established an
inseparable alliance, in which the environment essentially conditions man’s life
and development, while the human being perfects and ennobles the environment by
his or her creative activity.
the studies on environment and development, the primary concern of my delegation
is the importance of grasping the underlying moral imperative that all, without
exception, have a grave responsibility to protect the environment. While the
duty to protect the environment should not be considered in opposition to
development, it must not be sacrificed on the altar of economic
development. My delegation believes that, at its core, the environmental crisis
is a moral challenge. It calls us to examine how we use and share the goods of
the earth and what we pass on to future generations. It exhorts us to live in
harmony with our environment. Thus the ever-expanding powers of the human being
over nature must be accompanied by an equally expanding responsibility towards
The issue of
the environment is directly related to other basic questions, making holistic
solutions ever harder to find. Environment is inseparable from questions such as
energy and economics, peace and justice, national interests and international
solidarity. It is not hard to see how issues of environmental protection, models
of development, social equity and each one’s share of the responsibility to care
for the environment are inextricably intertwined.
while we seek to find the best way to protect the environment and attain
sustainable development, we must also work for justice within societies and
among nations. We must consider how in most countries today, it is the poor and
the powerless who most directly bear the brunt of environmental degradation.
Unable to do otherwise, they live in polluted lands, near toxic waste dumps, or
squat in public lands and other people’s properties without any access to basic
services. Subsistence farmers clear woodlands and forests in order to survive.
Their efforts to eke out a bare existence perpetuate a vicious circle of poverty
and environmental degradation. Indeed, extreme want is not only the worst of all
pollutions; it is also a great polluter.
is not gloom. Encouraging signs of greater public awareness of the
interrelatedness of the challenges we face have been emerging. The unease
created by predictions of disastrous consequences of climate change has awakened
individuals and countries to the urgency of caring for the environment.
Environmental degradation caused by certain models of economic development makes
many realize that development is not achieved through a mere quantitative
increase of production, but through a balanced approach to production, respect
for the rights and dignity of workers, and environmental protection.
earnestly hopes that these positive signs can lead to the consolidation of a
vision of human progress that is consistent with respect for nature, and to a
greater international solidarity in which the responsibility for environmental
care is equitably and proportionally shared between the developed and the
developing countries, between the rich and the poor. It is incumbent upon
authorities to ensure that these promising signs translate into public policies
capable of arresting, reversing and preventing environmental decay, while
pursuing the goal of sustainable development for all.
Laws are not
enough to alter behaviour. Behavioural change requires personal commitment and
the ethical conviction of the value of solidarity. It demands a more equitable
relationship between rich and poor countries, placing special obligations on
large-scale industrial structures, both in developed and developing nations, to
seriously take measures for environmental protection. A more caring attitude
towards nature can be attained and maintained with education and a persevering
awareness campaign. The more people know about the various aspects of the
environmental challenges they face, the better they can respond.
Thank you, Madam Chairperson.