Climate change and modern slavery

On 15 July, a Press Conference was held in the John Paul II Hall of the Holy See to present the Workshop Modern Slavery and Climate Change: the Commitment of the Cities and the Symposium Prosperity, People, and Planet: Achieving Sustainable Development in Our Cities. The workshop is to be held in the Synod Hall at the Vatican, on 21 and 22 July, the Mayors of “the major cities of the planet”, local governors and representatives of the United Nations have been invited “to share best practices in counter climate change and modern slavery. ” From the UK will be George Ferguson (elected mayor of Bristol) and Tony Lloyd (interim mayor of Greater Manchester until elections in 2017).

Climate change and modern slavery

The rationale of linking issues of modern slavery to the climate crisis was explained in a presentation was by Monseigneur Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, an Argentine Catholic bishop and the current Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Following a brief introduction to Anthropic Global Warming, he made the following points, inter alia

“Relativism: The Other As a Mere Object

According to Laudato si’, these human-induced climate-related phenomena, coupled with the culture of relativism, encourage individuals to take advantage of other individuals as mere objects, using them for forced labour or enslaving them. Pope Francis believes this is the same logic that leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests.


Links Between the Climate Crisis and Social Exclusion

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences agrees with the Holy Father that there is a clear link between the two human-induced emergencies of the climate crisis and the social crisis. Following the Encyclical, our commitment is to make the whole of society aware of these phenomena and of the human responsibilities of these crises and to react firmly, as a new moral imperative for all of humanity in favour of the common good.


The Mayors’ Commitment

We intend for the mayors to commit to promoting the empowerment of the poor and of those who live in vulnerable conditions in our cities and in our urban settlements, reducing their exposure to extreme weather events caused by radical environmental, economic and social instabilities, which create fertile ground for forced migration and human trafficking.”


An earlier meeting between police chiefs and bishops from all over the world, under the auspices of the Santa Marta Group founded by the Pope, noted that many police chiefs to state governors or elected mayors, hence the desire to bring together the 60 mayors “to determine the best practices to mitigate climate change and eradicate modern slavery.”

A future post will report on the outcome of next week’s workshop.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Climate change and modern slavery" in Law & Religion UK, 16 July 2015,

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