15 Jul 2019 Speech Sustainable Development Goals

Address to the Second International Conference on Laudato Si: Young People Caring for Our Common Home

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Youth Leaders from around the world

It is both a pleasure and an honour to address you today at the opening of the Second International Conference on Laudato Si:  Young People Caring for Our Common Home

Before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to thank our partners, the organizers of this important conference:

The Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development

The Catholic Youth for Environmental Sustainability for Africa

The Africa Office of the World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF

The Holy See

And the Faith for Earth Initiative of UN Environment

Ladies and Gentlemen

The year 2019 is just over six months old, but it’s already one for the record books. Around the world, we are experiencing - for the seventh year in a row - the highest temperatures that human beings have ever recorded.

The limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius that we set out in the Paris Climate Agreement is already fast approaching. We’re seeing devastating floods, prolonged droughts, rapid melting in the Arctic, and scientists tell us that one million species are at risk of extinction.

These are all critical warning signs of an urgent and undeniable truth: Our planet is sick.

You might be surprised, then, to hear that the feeling that fills me as I stand here before you is this one: Hope.

Urgency, yes. Frustration. Even dismay – those are all there, too. But the main feeling I have is hope.

I find hope, for one thing, in the Pope, who has spoken out so powerfully about the climate emergency, and who has encouraged young people to drive a movement to make a difference. As a mother of two young children, I find hope in this encouragement and leadership.

I find hope in the 40 Catholic institutions that have already announced plans to divest from oil and gas, and the many other faith-based groups around the world that are considering doing the same.

I find hope in the young women and men around the world who are drawing on both faith and science to campaign for change and to raise awareness about how to live more sustainably. They push to act faster.

I find hope in the millions of churches, mosques, synagogues and temples around the world that can embrace sustainability in their investments, buildings and teachings – and thus serve as powerful models for the people in their communities.

I find hope in Laudato Si’, the Papal encyclical that appeals to each of us to care for our common home, whose fourth anniversary we are celebrating this month.

I find hope in the leadership that we just saw, with people like Allan, who set up this model faith organization that for the past five years has been mobilizing action among young people across this rich and dynamic continent.

And I find hope in the young people and faith leaders who are gathered here today. 360 young leaders from more than 50 countries have joined us for this important meeting. Here, we have an incredible and real opportunity to find support and inspiration in each other – and to strengthen the bridges between faith, youth and the environment.

Ladies and Gentlemen

We at the UN Environment Programme are working hard - every day - to build a path to a sustainable future. And we are deeply committed to working with youth, as well as with faith leaders and faith-based organizations from around the world, to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In 2017, we launched the Faith for Earth initiative, which has already built a network of more than 750 faith-based organizations to harness the power of faith on behalf of the planet. The same year, we celebrated the establishment of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, with its mission to bring moral urgency and faith-based leadership to end the destruction of our tropical forests.

These are just two examples of the type of partnerships that can help us to find our way back to a more sustainable path.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am hopeful, but I am also a realist. And I know that we need to show more ambition in our work to heal our ailing planet.

In your deliberations over the next two days, I call upon you to dig deep, ask daring questions, make bold commitments, translate them into actions, and devise new solutions to old problems.

To all of the young people who are here with us, I call up on you to speak up and show your leadership. We need your energy, your passion, and your ideas.

Ladies and Gentlemen

One Earth. Many religions. One goal. That is the motto of the Faith for Earth Initiative, but let it also serve as our rallying cry for the next two days.

Let’s work together, let’s be ambitious – it is only through collective action that we make a difference.  

Karibu and Asante Sana


Joyce Msuya

Deputy Executive Director