Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you today.
And thank you to the Church Environment Commission and Nature
Trust Malta for organising this event to discuss the Papal Encyclical
Letter "Laudato Si – on care for our common home".
There can be no doubt that Laudato Si
is an important text. It is
critical but hopeful, lyrical but unflinching. It is part poetic homage to
the beauty of our planet, part scathing analysis of how we are
destroying that beauty.
The wording is clear, blunt even. It minces no words. This is not a
document for religious experts. Any layperson – Christian or not –
can understand what it says.
It names the problems. It points to possible ways forward. And it
calls on all
of us to change our ways.
To put an end to global environmental deterioration. To stop the
depletion of natural resources. To halt the loss of biodiversity.
As the European Union's Commissioner for the Environment,
Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, taking care of nature is my bread
and butter. Whether it's on land, or at sea.
But it is also a deeply personal subject. One that is close to my
Because His Holiness Pope Francis is right. No matter who we are
or what we believe, Mother Earth is "our common home". The only
home any of us has.
The European Union is taking care of this common home. We are
tackling problems from pollution to air quality. We are improving
access to water. We are protecting biodiversity.
And we are initiating the move away from today's mindless "throw-
away culture" towards a circular economy. An economy that
reduces waste and enhances recycling.
In short, we are pursuing an agenda that is good for our citizens
and good for the environment.
And let me single out one area of action in particular: our oceans.
Oceans are the source of life. They provide over 50% of the world's
oxygen. Literally every other breath we take.
They feed us. They provide for us.
They regulate our climate. And, if we are not careful, they can
unregulate it as well.
rightly highlights the oceans' importance.
And it stresses the many dramatic challenges they are facing today.
Rising sea levels and water temperatures. Acidification.
Uncontrolled fishing. Coral bleaching. Marine pollution.
It also recognises that more can be done to improve international
And there is hope.
Last year the European Union launched an agenda for the future of
the world's oceans.
It sets out 50 actions we will take, together with
our international partners.
And in 2017 we are pursuing this course.
Several high-level meetings for the oceans are taking place this
year. Each of them brings us one step closer to oceans that are
cleaner, healthier, more productive.
Tomorrow morning I will open the 4th edition of the international Our
Ocean Conference, hosted by the European Union here in Malta.
The Our Ocean conferences are about fostering tangible action for
healthy oceans. Whether it's protecting marine eco-systems. Or
fighting illegal fishing. Or reducing marine litter.
The conference brings together ocean champions from all walks of
life. Policymakers and scientists, business owners and educators.
To track previous pledges we've made. To measure our progress.
And to promote further action where needed.
Together we can come up with bright new ideas, put them into
practice, and spread the word. Together we can make a difference.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Christianity and the sea have an intimate connection.
Many of Christ's disciples were fishermen, before becoming 'fishers
of men'. The fish as a Christian symbol is nearly as old as the
Christian faith itself.
But of course, our seas and oceans do not care about our faith.
They merely care that we act
. Decisively. Together. No matter our
recognises this when it speaks of the natural
environment as "a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity,
and the responsibility of everyone".
I am proud of the part the European Union is playing in creating a
global alliance for our oceans.
The sea will not get better by chance. But it can get better by