Pope Benedict XVI
2010 World Day of Peace Message: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation
9. To be sure, among the basic problems which the international community has to address is that of energy resources and the development of joint and sustainable strategies to satisfy the energy needs of the present and future generations. This means that technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency. At the same time there is a need to encourage research into, and utilization of, forms of energy with lower impact on the environment and “a world-wide redistribution of energy resources, so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them”. The ecological crisis offers an historic opportunity to develop a common plan of action aimed at orienting the model of global development towards greater respect for creation and for an integral human development inspired by the values proper to charity in truth. I would advocate the adoption of a model of development based on the centrality of the human person, on the promotion and sharing of the common good, on responsibility, on a realization of our need for a changed life-style, and on prudence, the virtue which tells us what needs to be done today in view of what might happen tomorrow.
10. A sustainable comprehensive management of the environment and the resources of the planet demands that human intelligence be directed to technological and scientific research and its practical applications. The “new solidarity” for which John Paul II called in his Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace  and the “global solidarity” for which I myself appealed in my Message for the 2009 World Day of Peace  are essential attitudes in shaping our efforts to protect creation through a better internationally-coordinated management of the earth’s resources, particularly today, when there is an increasingly clear link between combatting environmental degradation and promoting an integral human development. These two realities are inseparable, since “the integral development of individuals necessarily entails a joint effort for the development of humanity as a whole”. At present there are a number of scientific developments and innovative approaches which promise to provide satisfactory and balanced solutions to the problem of our relationship to the environment. Encouragement needs to be given, for example, to research into effective ways of exploiting the immense potential of solar energy. Similar attention also needs to be paid to the world-wide problem of water and to the global water cycle system, which is of prime importance for life on earth and whose stability could be seriously jeopardized by climate change. Suitable strategies for rural development centred on small farmers and their families should be explored, as well as the implementation of appropriate policies for the management of forests, for waste disposal and for strengthening the linkage between combatting climate change and overcoming poverty. Ambitious national policies are required, together with a necessary international commitment which will offer important benefits especially in the medium and long term. There is a need, in effect, to move beyond a purely consumerist mentality in order to promote forms of agricultural and industrial production capable of respecting creation and satisfying the primary needs of all. The ecological problem must be dealt with not only because of the chilling prospects of environmental degradation on the horizon; the real motivation must be the quest for authentic world-wide solidarity inspired by the values of charity, justice and the common good. For that matter, as I have stated elsewhere, “technology is never merely technology. It reveals man and his aspirations towards development; it expresses the inner tension that impels him gradually to overcome material limitations. Technology in this sense is a response to God’s command to till and keep the land (cf. Gen 2:15) that he has entrusted to humanity, and it must serve to reinforce the covenant between human beings and the environment, a covenant that should mirror God’s creative love”.
Pope Benedict XVI
Papal Encyclical Caritas in Veritate
July 7, 2009
49. Questions linked to the care and preservation of the environment today need to give due consideration to the energy problem. The fact that some States, power groups and companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries. Those countries lack the economic means either to gain access to existing sources of non-renewable energy or to finance research into new alternatives. The stockpiling of natural resources, which in many cases are found in the poor countries themselves, gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations. These conflicts are often fought on the soil of those same countries, with a heavy toll of death, destruction and further decay. The international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future.
On this front too, there is a pressing moral need for renewed solidarity, especially in relationships between developing countries and those that are highly industrialized. The technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption, either through an evolution in manufacturing methods or through greater ecological sensitivity among their citizens. It should be added that at present it is possible to achieve improved energy efficiency while at the same time encouraging research into alternative forms of energy. What is also needed, though, is a worldwide redistribution of energy resources, so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them. The fate of those countries cannot be left in the hands of whoever is first to claim the spoils, or whoever is able to prevail over the rest. Here we are dealing with major issues; if they are to be faced adequately, then everyone must responsibly recognize the impact they will have on future generations, particularly on the many young people in the poorer nations, who “ask to assume their active part in the construction of a better world”.
Pope Benedict XVI
2007 World Day of Peace Message: The Human Person, the Heart of Peace
9. The close connection between these two ecologies can be understood from the increasingly serious problem of energy supplies. In recent years, new nations have entered enthusiastically into industrial production, thereby increasing their energy needs. This has led to an unprecedented race for available resources. Meanwhile, some parts of the planet remain backward and development is effectively blocked, partly because of the rise in energy prices. What will happen to those peoples? What kind of development or non-development will be imposed on them by the scarcity of energy supplies? What injustices and conflicts will be provoked by the race for energy sources? And what will be the reaction of those who are excluded from this race? These are questions that show how respect for nature is closely linked to the need to establish, between individuals and between nations, relationships that are attentive to the dignity of the person and capable of satisfying his or her authentic needs. The destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth's resources cause grievances, conflicts and wars, precisely because they are the consequences of an inhumane concept of development. Indeed, if development were limited to the technical-economic aspect, obscuring the moral-religious dimension, it would not be an integral human development, but a one-sided distortion which would end up by unleashing man's destructive capacities.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good
“Technological innovation and entrepreneurship can help make possible options that can lead us to a more environmentally benign energy path.”
“To avoid greater impact, energy resource adjustments must be made both in the policies of richer countries and in the development paths of poorer ones.”
“These countries need to share these emerging technologies with the less-developed countries and assume more of the financial responsibility that would enable poorer countries to afford them. This would help developing countries adopt energy-efficient technologies more rapidly while still sustaining healthy economic growth and development.10 Industries from the developed countries operating in developing nations should exercise a leadership role in preserving the environment.”
“We also hope that the United States will continue to undertake reasonable and effective initiatives for energy conservation and the development of alternate renewable and clean-energy resources. New technologies and innovations can help meet this challenge. While more needs to be done to reduce air pollution, through the use of improved technologies and environmental entrepreneurship, the United States has made significant environmental gains over the last several decades. Our hope is that these technologies along with other resources can be shared with developing countries.”
“Each of us should carefully consider our choices and lifestyles. We live in a culture that prizes the consumption of material goods. While the poor often have too little, many of us can be easily caught up in a frenzy of wanting more and more—a bigger home, a larger car, etc. Even though energy resources literally fuel our economy and provide a good quality of life, we need to ask about ways we can conserve energy, prevent pollution, and live more simply.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
March 31, 1997
Senate Appropriations Committee
Washington, D.C., 20510
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the public policy agency of the U.S. Catholic bishops, I write to urge you to support higher FY 1998 funding levels for several key programs now before the Appropriation Committee. These programs include the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Weatherization Program and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
In our Reflections on the Energy Crisis, we stated that, “The Church’s interest in these topics (energy policy) is quite straight forward. To the extent that energy is necessary for human life and health, and for life with dignity, access to it is a matter of justice. Institutions and energy policies that fail to take human need sufficiently into account violate rights which the Church must defend.” We also recognized that “In the years ahead, the nations of the earth, both rich and poor, must learn to conserve what supplies they can obtain. They must also find some way of switching over to dependence on alternative sources of energy... ”
The burning of fossil fuels is the dominant source of pollution that continues to contribute to a host of environmental and health problems including acid rain, urban smog and respiratory ailments. As bishops and pastors, we are especially concerned with the effects on the poor and the vulnerable, especially children. To correct these problems now and to protect better future generations as well as the environment, policies that promote energy conservation and efficiency and the development of renewable energy resources offer a more just and viable long term solution. An increase in funding could help prevent human environmental health problems as well as reduce energy resource waste.
We especially urge you to increase the funding available for the Weatherization Program and LIHEAP, which have helped so many low-income people literally survive extreme winters and summers. The Weatherization program has been successful in retrofitting buildings to conserve energy, lower power bills and create jobs. LIHEAP funds are critically needed to assist and protect millions of low-income families, children, senior citizens and disabled persons from severe economic and physical hardship. Without help from LIHEAP emergency funds, many low-income families may be forced to choose between heat and food. In your effort to balance the budget, we urge you not to sacrifice one program for the other. Together these programs protect human life and the environment.
See how the Church has tackled the environmental justice and energy issues entangled in our transportation systems.
Increased support for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewables seems a wise investment. Given the disproportionate consumption of energy and other natural resources by the United States relative to its population, research and development of renewables and alternative energy resources can help usher in a more sustainable economy for the 21st century. This cluster of DOE programs has a proven track record of protecting the environment with the cooperation of the private sector while decreasing our national dependence on imported oil. It is also not likely in general that the private sector would pick up this responsibility because of the uncertainty of an expeditious return on investment in the near future. More importantly, there is a societal obligation that requires us not to leave future generations with depleted natural resources or an unhealthy environment.
Thank you for your consideration of our views.
Most Reverend William Skylstad
Bishop of Spokane
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Policy
For more information on Catholic perspectives on energy production and use:
Read “This Land is Home to Me
,” the Appalachian Catholic Bishops’ pastoral, which deals with the impacts of coal mining on the land and people.