Vatican Commits to Carbon Neutrality

November 2, 2007 at 9:13 am

Leading the way in environmental concerns, the Vatican has recently announced its plans to become the first entirely carbon neutral sovereign state in the world. The plans come after a recent statement by Pope Benedict XVI, who, drawing on the teaching on stewardship in the Book of Genesis, emphasised the need of the international community to respect and encourage a ‘green culture.’

Pope Benedict’s own commitment to climate change reinforces that of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, who in 2001 spoke out against the indifference shown by many to the world’s ecological crisis. The Vatican hopes that its pragmatic approach to climate change will usher in a new way of living, in which individuals and organisations will wake up and take responsibility for the survival of the planet.

To help realise its ambitious targets of carbon neutrality, the Vatican has selected the environmental initiative of KlimFa, a Hungarian company co-owned by Planktos Inc, which is working in collaboration with Hungary’s government, Academy of Sciences and National Parks Directorate. KlimFa is an eco-restoration firm that works with companies and organisations to accurately assess their carbon emissions, allowing those companies to offset the damage caused by their carbon footprint through large-scale reforestation projects.

In partnership with the Vatican, KlimFa has been working to create a Vatican Climate Forest, which has been calculated to neutralise the Vatican’s carbon emissions for an entire year. The forest has been created in Hungary’s Buck National Park, as part of KlimFa’s Climate Parks programme, which plans to transform over 10, 000 hectares of Hungarian soil into native mixed forests over the course of the next decade.

This will also aid in creating new jobs for struggling Hungarian communities, as well as bringing about environmental regeneration. By using a complex mix of scientific planting patterns, species selection and growth rate measurements, KlimFa are able to calculate accurately the amount of oxygen produced by the forests, which can then go on sale to the European community as carbon offsets. As well as working directly with the Vatican, KlimFa will also work alongside Catholic churches outside of Rome, to help calculate their individual carbon footprints and put plans in place for carbon reduction and offsets.

The exact dimensions of the Vatican Climate Forest will depend on the Vatican’s success in reducing its current emissions, so, as well as working closely with KlimFa on the large-scale reforestation project, the Vatican is making significant steps to reduce its carbon footprint. Next year the Vatican plans to replace the roof of Paul V1, its 6,300-seater auditorium with photovoltaic cells which will convert solar energy into electricity. It is believed that the introduction of solar panels onto the building will create enough energy to heat, cool and light the building, with any excess energy being used in the Vatican’s network. There are also proposals to put solar panels on other buildings although historic sites such as St Peter’s Basilica will be left untouched.

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