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Pope Francis may attend global climate talks in Dubai

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis may attend the COP28 climate conference starting next month in Dubai, Vatican sources say, to drive home his recent appeal for action to curb global warming.

It would be the first time a pope has attended a UN climate change conference since they began in 1995.

Pope Francis wants to go to Dubai, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, told Reuters on the sidelines of a Catholic-Jewish event in Rome on Wednesday (Oct 18), adding that no final decision had been taken.

Other Vatican sources put the probability that the pope would go to the Nov 30 to Dec 12 event as high as 90 per cent.

Heads of state usually attend only the opening sessions of the conferences and make keynote addresses. US President Joe Biden spoke at the start of the last two meetings at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last year and Glasgow, Scotland in 2021. Such conferences are also occasions for bilateral meetings.

Pope Francis, 86, has made protection of the environment one of the hallmarks of his papacy and met last week with COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber.

In a major document on Oct 4, Pope Francis appealed to climate change deniers and foot-dragging politicians to have a change of heart, saying they cannot gloss over human causes or deride science while the planet “may be nearing the breaking point”.

The document, known as an Apostolic Exhortation and titled Laudate Deum (Praise God), was a follow-up to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment “Laudato Si” (Praise Be).

It was prompted by recent extreme weather events and mentioned the challenges facing COP28 several times.

Failure in Dubai, Pope Francis said in the document, “will be a great disappointment and jeopardize whatever good has been achieved thus far”.

Pope Francis uses a cane and wheelchair because of a knee ailment but his mobility issues have not prevented him from keeping a full schedule. In September, he made a trip to Mongolia and the French city of Marseilles.

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