Leeds MP meets with Pope ahead of Cop26 summit as Catholic leader emphasises 'crucial' need for politicians to tackle climate crisis

A Yorkshire MP was among a delegation who met the Pope ahead of the Cop26 climate summit as the Catholic leader called on political figures to undertake the “fundamental virtues of good politics” and tackle the global warming crisis.

Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi at the gathering in Rome (Supplied by MPs office)
Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi at the gathering in Rome (Supplied by MPs office)

Speaking to parliamentary figures from across the globe this weekend, Pope Francis spoke of the “crucial” need for politicians to help tackle environmental issues, telling them that “everyone has a role to play”.

Alex Sobel, the Labour MP for Leeds North West, was among those who travelled to Rome for Saturday’s meeting, as the Cop26 Rapporteur for the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU).

His role means that he will help to co-ordinate the contributions of MPs and Parliamentarians in the lead-up to and at the upcoming climate summit in Glasgow.

Speaking at the gathering, Mr Sobel called on politicians to “utilise all the influence in our collective Parliaments” to take on the problems.

He said this should be “not just to reaffirm and set the track for 1.5C, but all the effects of a warming planet including disease, habitat and biodiversity loss, climate migration, flooding, wildfires, loss of small island states, falling and failing crop yields and much more which will make our planet uninhabitable”.

The interventions come just weeks before world leaders and figures from across the planet are due to meet in Glasgow for the UN’s Cop26 climate summit.

Pope Francis told the delegation that lawmakers “owe” it to the young and future generations to halt the climate crisis and do more to protect our “common home”.

“To meet this challenge, everyone has a role to play,” Francis told the visiting lawmakers from many countries. ”That of political and government leaders is especially important, and indeed crucial.”

“This demanding change of direction will require great wisdom, foresight and concern for the common good: in a word, the fundamental virtues of good politics, We owe this to the young, to future generations.”

Caring for humanity’s “common home”, Francis said, “is not just a matter of discouraging and penalizing improper practices, but also, and above all, of concretely encouraging new paths to pursue” that are better suited to climate-protection objectives and to contributing “to the positive outcome of COP26”.

It has recently been revealed that the Pope will not travel to Scotland for the conference, which starts at the end of this month, having recently undergone surgery, but a Vatican delegation will be led by secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

There is a growing consensus among religious leaders over the importance of tackling the unfolding climate crisis.

In a joint statement which was released last month, the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, said that the world is at a “critical moment” in an urgent appeal to halt climate change.

Reflecting on the pandemic, the figures said that since the outbreak of Covid-19, “we realised that in facing this worldwide calamity, no-one is safe until everyone is safe, that our actions really do affect one another, and that what we do today affects what happens tomorrow”.

Applying those principles to the climate crisis, they added: “All of us, whoever and wherever we are, can play a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation.

“Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment.

“This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”