Vatican launches climate change summit

Top officials in the Catholic Church are launching a summit Tuesday at the Vatican to study how best to influence the United Nations’ climate change agreement.

The summit, called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity,” is part of Pope Francis’ efforts this year to call for a strong agreement that protects the poor and underrepresented while preserving the Earth, the New York Times reported.

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It will feature speeches from top climate and economic development leaders to focus on the links among climate change, poverty and the economy. Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN, will give one of the main addresses.

The UN is expecting this December in Paris to forge a new, international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.

Francis announced late last year that he would issue an encyclical this summer urging all Catholics to join the battle against climate change, as part of his effort to influence the UN process.

The Vatican summit is part of officials’ attempts to help Francis write his encyclical. Officials met with Gina McCarthy, head of the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, for the same reason last month.

But in the United States, Francis’ involvement is already angering conservatives who either do not believe that humans influence climate change or do not want international policies to fight it.

The Heartland Institute, a conservative group backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, is sending staff to the Vatican to protest the meeting and try to convince Catholic leaders that human-induced climate change is not real.