Vatican signs up for a carbon offset forest

The Holy See has accepted an offer from a climate solutions company to plant a forest in Hungary which will offset the Vatican's carbon dioxide emissions and make it the "first entirely carbon neutral sovereign state".

The Vatican is pushing its green agenda, joining a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions for this year, PR Inside reports.

Cardinal Paul Poupard of the Pontifical Council for Culture accepted a certificate from Hungarian-based firm Planktos/KlimaFa stating that the reforestation of a large area of the Bukk national park in Hungary would compensate for all its emissions this year.

"This donation means an entire section of a national park in central Europe will be reforested," Cardinal Poupard said.

"In this way, the Vatican will do its small part in contributing to the elimination of polluting emissions from CO2 which is threatening the survival of this planet.

"As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, had recently stated, the international community needs to respect and encourage a 'Green Culture,' characterized by ethical values. The Book of Genesis tells us of a beginning in which God placed man as guardian over the earth to make it fruitful. When man forgets that he is a faithful servant of this earth, it becomes a desert that threatens the survival of all creation…"

Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca, the undersecretary for the Pontifical Council of Culture, told The Associated Press that polluting emissions from the Vatican would be offset by the reforestation.

"To eliminate emissions, there are two ways: either you reduce them by renouncing the use of cars or heating systems, for example, or you do something good to compensate them, such as planting trees," he said.

The company is planting the trees and the Vatican's acceptance of the move is purely symbolic.

"These are small initiatives that try to send a signal," Monsignor Sanchez de Toca said.

"We hope that other churches contribute with small gestures to spread the concern for the protection of the environment.

Just how much of the national park will undergo the reforestation project will be determined by this year's energy usage in the Vatican and its other emission reduction efforts, the Planktos/Klimfa statement said.

The reforestation project is part of a broader effort by the Vatican to go green.
Some of the Holy See buildings will start using solar energy next year, with photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity being placed on the roof of the Paul VI auditorium, which is used for the pontiff's general audiences.

Last summer, Pope Benedict XVI called on Christians to unite to take "care of creation without squandering its resources and (share) them in a convivial manner". He said lifestyle choices were damaging the environment and making «the lives of poor people on Earth especially unbearable.

The Vatican is also considering solar energy for other Holy See buildings, though historic landmarks like St Peter's Basilica will not be touched.

According to Planktos CEO and KlimaFa Managing Director, Russ George, "the Holy See's increasingly creative environmental leadership is both insightful and profound. Not only is the Vatican steadily reducing its carbon footprint with energy efficiency and solar power, its choice of new mixed growth forests to offset the balance of its emissions shows a deep commitment to planetary stewardship as well. It eloquently makes the point that ecorestoration is a fitting climate change solution for a culture of life."

The Vatican to Become World's First Carbon Neutral Sovereign State (Digital 50, 12/7/07)
Planktos/KlimaFa's New Vatican Climate Forest Initiative to Fully Green the Holy See (Planktos/Klimafa Media Release, 12/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for Culture

Worms tackle environment at Korean "Green Church" festival (CathNews, 8/6/07)
Vatican goes solar (CathNews, 28/5/07)
Green pope says save Amazon (CathNews, 14/5/07)

US leads search for climate solutions (BBC News, 9/7/07)

13 Jul 2007