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VATICAN-CO2 Jul-13-2007 (570 words) xxxi

Vatican accepts donation to make it first carbon-neutral state

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling for "a new culture, new attitudes and new lifestyles that make people aware of their role as custodians" of the earth, Cardinal Paul Poupard accepted a donation designed to make the Vatican "the world's first carbon-neutral sovereign state."

The U.S.-based Planktos Inc. and its Hungarian partner, KlimaFa, will designate part of a reforestation project in Hungary as the Vatican Climate Forest.

Cardinal Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, accepted the gift on behalf of the Vatican in early July. The council and the two companies announced it publicly July 12.

In the meantime, Pope Benedict XVI, vacationing in the northern Italian Alps, sent a message to Italian forest rangers celebrating the July 12 feast of St. John Gualberto, their patron saint.

"It is an appropriate occasion to express my appreciation and affection for forest rangers, certain that they want their work to be marked by a spirit of service, to be close to the people and to better safeguard natural resources, which are a gift of God for everyone," said the papal message.

The size of the Vatican Climate Forest in Hungary and the number of trees to be planted will depend directly on the Vatican's 2007 energy usage, said Planktos and KlimaFa. The companies said they will offset all of the Vatican's 2007 emissions of carbon dioxide, or CO2.

The burning of fossil fuels, such as gasoline and heating oil, emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is one of the "greenhouse gases" that traps heat in the earth's atmosphere and is seen as a prime cause of global warming.

Planktos and KlimaFa earn money by selling greenhouse-gas mitigation credits to individuals and businesses. Whatever carbon dioxide emissions someone cannot eliminate can be offset by planting trees or buying the carbon mitigation credits of a company that plants trees or takes other action to eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

In his July 5 statement to executives from Planktos and KlimaFa, Cardinal Poupard thanked the companies for helping the Vatican "do its little part to contribute to eliminating polluting CO2 emissions that threaten the survival of the planet."

God created the world and appointed people as its guardians, telling them to make it fruitful, the cardinal said.

"When man forgets that he is the servant of the earth and becomes its master, the earth itself seems to rebel against man, and the place of welcome becomes a desert that threatens the survival of creation," the cardinal said.

"Safeguarding the environment is not a political question that leaders of political parties must resolve, but an ethical, cultural question," he said.

Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, an official at the council for culture, said the monetary value of the Planktos-KlimaFa gift "is clearly symbolic. They get free publicity and the Holy See is provided with a way to encourage Catholics to do more to safeguard the planet."

"Vatican City State is trying to do its part," he said, mentioning plans to install solar panels on the Vatican audience hall to generate electricity.

"One can emit less CO2 by not using heating and not driving a car or one can do penance by intervening to offset CO2 emissions, in this case by planting trees, which convert CO2 into oxygen," he told Catholic News Service July 13. "It is an ethical and a cultural imperative."


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