Vatican Commits To Net-Zero Emissions By 2050

Pope Francis - Vatican net zero emissions

In a video message sent to participants in a virtual climate summit on the weekend, Pope Francis has committed Vatican City to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. 2050??

The Climate Ambition Summit 2020 was held on the weekend, which brought together leaders “ready to make new commitments to tackle climate change and deliver on the Paris Agreement”. The event was co-convened by the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France in partnership with Chile and Italy.

Australia wasn’t invited, apparently due to a perceived lack of action on climate issues at a Federal level. Early this month, Prime Minister Morrison said Australia would attend the summit to “correct mistruths“, but that obviously didn’t work out as planned.

Participants were to set out new and ambitious commitments under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and finance – and the guidelines of the summit stipulated there would “be no space for general statements”.

Prime Minister Morrison shrugged off the snub, stating the only approval he seeks for the policies of his government is that of the Australian people. This being the case, he may want to take note of the recent findings of the recent Climate Of The Nation survey that indicated 68% of Australians supported a national target for net zero emissions by 2050.

Anyhow, among the leaders to get a guernsey was Pope Francis, who sent a video message along with other participants that can be viewed here. My foreign language skills being what they are, I’ve referred to a rather vague news item released by the Vatican to get an idea of what the Pope had to say.

Aside from announcing the net-zero emissions by 2050 commitment and scant detail on current Vatican efforts, Pope Francis urged world leaders to seize the moment.

“The time has come to change direction,” said the Pope. “Let us not rob younger generations of their hope in a better future.”

The message from Pope Francis follows a number of official communications from him over the years mentioning his climate concerns. In 2015, he penned the encyclical letter “Laudato Si’,” which among other issues lamented environmental degradation and climate change.

A Tiny State With Vast Resources On Tap

Vatican City, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, is the world’s smallest state/country, covering just 49 hectares (121 acres). It has a population of around 825, but sees millions of visitors a year.

Efforts to green the Vatican began before Pope Francis’s reign. Predecessor Pope Benedict XVI also recognised the threat posed by climate change and was a reasonably early adopter of solar power. Back in 2008, 2,400 solar panels were installed on the Vatican’s “Nervi Hall”, but there have been no further installations that I’m aware of.

Another project under Pope Benedict XVI’s reign was the ill-fated Vatican Climate Forest. A donation by a carbon-offsetting company, it was to be sized to offset the carbon emissions generated by the Vatican – but it was never planted.

The Holy See (the universal government of the Catholic Church that operates from Vatican City) can be a bit slow off the mark in reacting to crises in a positive way that matches its clout. While it’s great Pope Francis has been and continues to make all the right noises about climate change, a 2050 target for net-zero emissions for the Vatican may seem a little weak given the vast financial and other resources it can tap into.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. ‘Committing’ to a 2050 target might sound promising, however there is a vast difference between ‘committing’ to doing something and actually doing it.

    And of course there is now the question of where is the money needed going to come from?

    For the time being nothing much has actually changed in terms of national government behaviour, and given that its taken some 30 years (from 1990) to get more than 50% of the population to acknowledge that there is even a problem at all. I’m not all optimistic that sufficient will actually be done in the near to medium future to achieve anything that’s meaningful in the longer term at all.

    • Des Scahill,
      You state: “‘Committing’ to a 2050 target might sound promising…”

      I’d suggest it’s just ‘kicking the can down the road’. What matters is what we/humanity do/does NOW and before 2030.

      Published in Nature on 28 June 2017 was a commentary by Figueres et. al. titled “Three years to safeguard our climate”. The Figure box “Carbon Crunch” highlights what must be done – a delay of only 5 years means the task becomes impossible.

      You also ask: “And of course there is now the question of where is the money needed going to come from?”

      What price do you put on civilisation collapse and potentially species extinction, Des? When Britain faced the Nazis after the rest of Europe was subdued during WW2, the emphasis was more on continuing to repel the enemy and over time gain the upper hand, and worry less about the costs.

      Last year, before COVID-19, Nate Hagens presented a keynote address at The Resilience Gathering 2019 titled “Can we avoid Civilization Collapse”. Below is the YouTube titled “The Resilience Gathering – Keynote Address “The Human Predicament” by Nate Hagens”, published by NewSchoolCommonweal on 1 Jul 2019.

      Nate Hagens said from time interval 0:12:58:

      “And we are biological organisms, with finite lifespans, and for that, and many other reasons, we immensely care about the present, more than the future. The future; we can use our neocortex – our intelligent brain – to think about and to imagine the future, but emotionally, behaviorally, we are still mammals that react to today. We care about today much more than tomorrow, tomorrow more than next week, and so we have this inherent time bias which is a mismatch to some of these challenges that Michael introduced. OK, energy. Energy is the big topic that is not often discussed. In fact, ah, I made an video series for my students called ‘Energy Blindness’. Our culture is energy blind. We think of our progress in terms of money and technology. We don’t realize how energy underpins everything in our modern civilization. A few hundred years ago, we puzzled out how to extract fossil carbon that had been compressed, heated and stored, and refined over hundreds of millions of years. We’re pulling that carbon out ten million times faster than it was sequestered, and it’s powering our modern society.”

      I’d suggest humanity’s time bias and energy blindness are leading us towards a ‘great reset’.

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