French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal asserted on Tuesday that Pope Francis' soon-to-be-released encyclical on climate change "will be a key moment" in the move from a carbon-based to a "green" economy.
During a press breakfast at the French ambassador's residence in Washington, Royal emphasized that "the argument of the Pope will augment the fight" and "awaken people" to the cause of climate change.
Pope Francis, who has said climate change is mostly the result of actions by humans, will unveil his long-awaited encyclical (official papal teaching) on the controversial issue on June 18.
One of the most-watched figures in modern French politics, Royal attracted international attention in 2007 as the first woman nominated by a major party (Socialist) to run for president of France. She eventually lost the race to conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy.
Last year, she joined the Cabinet of Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is also her former "life partner" — they were never married — and father of their four children.
In addressing what the Pope would say about climate change, Royal pointed out that his upcoming encyclical "is not the first moment" Pope Francis has spoken on this issue. She recalled how he mentioned climate change in his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in November.
"He told me he was writing on this issue," said Royal, recalling how she went to Strasbourg to welcome the Pope. She also said the Pope "has a very long-term commitment on the issue of climate change" and noted the significance of then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio choosing the name Francis upon assuming the papacy in 2013.
"St. Francis of Assisi was the saint of animals and nature," she said, adding that choice of his name is a reflection of the Pope's "own identity."
On April 27, the Vatican was the site of a summit that included religious, scientific and political leaders, among them United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Royal said that in the fall, Ban will convene another "meeting of constituencies" on climate change made up of "all religious leaders as well as those who believe in the great humanist principles."
In discussing with Royal the skepticism about drastic action on climate change among congressional Republicans, Newsmax cited the example of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. The 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee has said that although he believes the temperature of the Earth is changing slightly, he strongly questions whether that is reason enough to impose drastic changes on the U.S. economy that might devastate the American manufacturing industry.
Royal never specifically addressed Ryan's concerns, but said the key to convincing skeptics is to demonstrate that "the price of not fixing the consequences of climate change is higher than the true price of carbon."
The French ecology minister acknowledged that discussion on the issue "in internal, domestic [U.S.] politics is very complex." President Barack Obama is "most committed" on the issue of climate change, Royal said. However, she conceded that the Republican-controlled Congress "may not be as committed."
But she quickly added that "it is possible [for the U.S.] to move forward if there are blockages in Congress," as Obama did "when he uses all power within his authority" — a reference to his controversial executive order mandating stricter regulations for carbon emissions.
Some Americans disagree sharply with Royal that Obama is within legal grounds when "he uses all power within his authority." As Newsmax reported on Monday, West Virginia State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has filed suit in federal court charging that the president overstepped his authority by issuing the new carbon regulations by executive order.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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