The Philippines, Asia's largest Catholic country, is seeking to gather 10 million signatures for a petition that will pressure world leaders to act on climate change, media reports said Wednesday.
After a scathing encyclical from Pope Francis in June, where he warned that the planet is "beginning to look like an immense pile of filth," religious leaders from Manila have pledged to gather more signatures for the Catholic climate petition, which will be handed to world leaders at a climate summit in Paris in November.
"We're getting signatures as a representation of the Catholic's voice on the issue of climate change, especially in pushing global leaders to urgently act," Lou Arsenio, Manila coordinator for the Global Catholic Climate Movement, told the Guardian.
The Philippines, which has a population of 76 million Catholics, has promised to deliver half of the 20 million signatures that the petition seeks. Other Catholic leaders have also called for a coordinated response on climate change.
"Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others," the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said, in a statement on Tuesday. "Concern with the despoliation of the ecosystem and the deleterious disturbance of that delicate balance of everything that constitutes the human environment has brought home the point that social justice must, of necessity, include our responsibility for future generations."
Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary for the advocacy and social development arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told the Guardian that the pope's encyclical meant that climate change was a "clear and unequivocal" priority for the Catholic Church.
"Pope Francis was able to contextualize the discourse on a much wider framework to point out the interconnectedness of everything. It is now easy to realize that the 'cry of the Earth is the cry of the poor'," he reportedly said.
As a poor, coastal nation, the Philippines is considered one of the most vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change. Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the country in 2013, killed at least 6,300 people, making it the deadliest typhoon to hit the nation in modern history.
The country was ranked the third-most vulnerable to climate change-related effects in the world by the United Nations, and a 2013 government report warned that other events besides natural disasters, such as torrential rainfall or rising sea levels, could also prove hazardous to the country.