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Two years after Pope Francis launched Laudato Si, the Vatican’s plea to save the earth, Trump rejected its tenets and the Paris Agreement. But people of all faiths are unified globally to beat climate change.
  • Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his encyclical on global environmental protection during the president’s visit to Europe in May. A week later Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • While the majority of U.S. Catholics voted for Trump, and polled less favorably toward the pope after publication of Laudato Si, his bold plea to save the earth continues to energize leaders of all faiths.
  • Examples abound: in May, 55 “emerging faith leaders” from 17 countries met in Brazil to identify realistic renewable energy and sustainability projects for their nations. Also in May, nine large Catholic organizations from around the globe announced divestment from coal, oil and gas stocks.
  • Hindu spiritual leaders are urging the jettisoning of coal for alternative energy, and reducing pollution around temples. Morocco committed to converting 15,000 mosques to renewable energy by 2019. Jordan spiritual leaders have committed to going solar. Change could be faster, many agree, but it is ongoing.
Pope Francis greets First Lady Melania Trump with a smile. The pope and the U.S. president are worlds apart on climate change, with the pontiff seeing it as a looming threat to civilization and especially to the world’s poor, while Trump has called global warming “a hoax” and pulled out of the Paris Agreement. White House photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States license.

On May 24, a grim-faced Pope Francis handed a signed copy of Laudato Si to President Trump during his visit to Rome. The U.S. president, who has called climate change “a hoax,” promised to read the papal encyclical, a spiritual and secular plea to save the earth from environmental destruction.

A week later, Trump announced plans to yank the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, whose prologue was influenced by the principles embodied in Laudato Si. In doing so, Trump repudiated 195 nations’ pledges to reduce their carbon footprint to mitigate the worst effects of climate change; he repudiated Pope Francis and his encyclical as well.

Two years after the release of Laudato Si — and long after its intense global attention has faded — it’s worth asking: is the uncompromising and unprecedented Catholic teaching document fulfilling Vatican expectations by uniting leaders of all faiths, along with their billions of congregants, to take decisive climate action “in care for our common home”?

The answer is a qualified, “yes” — based on evidence from interviews with a range of faith leaders, recent conferences, signed pledges and a host a concrete actions, large and small, in congregations and seminaries around the world.

Read more: People of all faiths face climate change with hope, action, urgency

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The US president's decision led to protests against the withdrawal from the Paris agreement

US President Donald Trump "believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation," says the US ambassador to the UN.

He knows "the US has to be responsible for it and that's what we're going to do," said Nikki Haley.

The president provoked widespread condemnation when he announced on Thursday the US would withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement.

The US becomes one of only three countries outside its framework.

When he made the announcement, Mr Trump said the deal would hurt the US economy. He made no mention of climate change science.

During his election campaign, Mr Trump had said that climate change was a hoax and, since his announcement on Thursday, has avoided questions on the subject, as has White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

Read more: Trump 'does believe in climate change', says US ambassador to UN

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People protested outside the White House after President Trump announced the US would pull out of the Paris accord

As soon as US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement, governors and mayors of places including Washington, New York and California banded together to uphold the commitments in it.

How much can they do on a local level?

There's plenty they can do - but it won't make up what's lost.

The Democratic governors of the three states say they represent 10% of US greenhouse gas emissions combined, and one in five Americans. Their United States Climate Alliance is designed to "convene US states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change".

In California, legislators voted to get 100% of the state's energy needs from renewables by 2045. It followed in the footsteps of Hawaii, Portland and Salt Lake City, which have similar targets.

And mayors representing 82 cities and 39 million Americans have written an open letter pledging to increase their commitment to renewable energy and electric cars, and "adopt, honour, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement".

One report suggests that if all US cities participated, they could contribute 6% of the greenhouse gas savings the world needs to stick to the target.

Under the Paris agreement, the US had agreed to:

  • cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 1.6 billion tonnes by 2025
  • contribute up to $3bn in aid to poorer countries through the Green Climate Fund

The cut in greenhouse gas emissions was part of a global effort to keep temperature rises below 1.5C (3.5F) above pre-industrial levels. If the US pulls out and other countries do not adjust their plans, that target will not be met, which would raise the risks of flooding, extreme weather including heat waves, and changes to freshwater patterns and food production.

Read more: Paris agreement: Without Trump, will US cities tackle climate?

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