Community Outreach Toolkit

Here’s how YOU can ensure world leaders take strong action to protect biodiversity and the climate.

2021 is a super year for global meetings related to caring for our earth – there are two United Nations summits coming up where world leaders have the power to act boldly to care for creation. These global meetings are all happening within a global pandemic which has further deepened poverty and inequality around the world. It will take massive public pressure to ensure leaders are not influenced by corporate lobbyists who are concerned about profit over people and the planet. 

One powerful way individuals and institutions can encourage world leaders to boldly act for climate and ecological justice is to gather petition signatures for the Biodiversity and Climate petition that has been developed with the input of many Catholic actors worldwide. Catholic groups will partner together to deliver these petition signatures at or ahead of key global meetings.  Catholic groups working at national levels are also encouraged to use the petition to engage directly with their national decision makers ahead of these key meetings.  

See below for resources and suggested activities for promoting this petition to your community. 

Just as we need world leaders to take bold action for our climate – we encourage YOU to boldly engage your community in this petition gathering effort! We also encourage you to utilize this outreach effort not as a one off activity but as a part of your ongoing work to bring Laudato Si’ to life in your community. Use the petition outreach to grow understanding of the issues, to grow the network you are working with, and to grow your capacity to mobilise in caring for creation in your community.

Host an virtual community outreach event

  • This is the strongest approach to gathering petition signatures. By bringing people together virtually, it creates an opportunity for connection, sharing stories, and creating community – something we know our communities need during this difficult time. Importantly, it’s a great way to contextualise the issues and the campaign. Consider collaborating with other organizations in your area who also work on environmental issues. Perhaps they would like to partner on this online gathering. You could invite local experts on climate and biodiversity to speak, invite frontline communities experiencing the impacts and who are working for change. Webinars are a great way to build community and understanding, increase knowledge and commitment to the issue, get questions answered, and take action on the spot by signing the petition and committing to share it in their own circles.  
  • Set a goal for the number of attendees you’d like to have, and the number of petition signers. It might be 10 attendees who each get 10 petition signatures if you are just getting going, or it could be hundreds, or even thousands if you’re part of multiple well connected organizations. 
  • Create a zoom event for your friends, family or community. Here are some tips for hosting an online meeting. Invite people to attend and learn about the climate and biodiversity campaign and how they can help make a difference. 
  • It’s important to remind participants about the meeting in the days leading up to the event and confirm that they can still attend.  
  • On the zoom event, share a bit about the petition campaign (here is a powerpoint presentation you can use). Once questions have been answered, ask participants to take action right then by texting, emailing, messaging, or even calling their friends and family to ask them to sign the petition. If you had 10 people join a zoom meeting, and each of them contacted 10 friends, that would be 100 petition signatures in one hour! And of course, the more signatures, the more power we have to convince leaders to boldly act for our precious earth – so we encourage you to think big!

    Host a Covid-safe in-person outreach event

    • If you feel comfortable, based on health guidelines in your area, you can also do an outreach event in person. Be sure to follow local health and safety guidelines. 
    • If you are part of an organization, several in person events could be held in order to engage more people in the petition. 
    • Select an area in your community where there will be lots of people walking by. 
    • Consider creating a poster or sign to draw attention to your outreach event
    • Invite others to join you in your outreach event
    • Wave, smile, and ask people to take a moment to sign a petition to care for creation. You can share the bit.ly link for them to sign using their mobile device.

      Invite your community to sign the petition

      • Whether it’s an email to your Green parish group, a text message, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok post, or a blast to a much larger list of hundreds or thousands of people, personalized outreach is an excellent way to spread the word about the biodiversity and climate petition. 
      • If you are part of a like-minded organization, that could be a good place to share information about the petition. Encourage your parish to promote the petition. 
      • We encourage you to set a goal for outreach, such as ask 20 friends to sign the petition, or, if you’re part of a large network or organization, your goal may be hundreds of signatures.
      • Create a short personalized message inviting people to sign. It could be something like:
        • Hi! I just signed this global petition asking world leaders to address the biodiversity and climate crisis! My goal is to have 20 friends also sign. Will you join me? Just takes a minute and if we can get 5 million global signatures, we’ll have a LOT of power at important climate meetings this year. Thank you!

        Ask friends and family to ALSO share the petition

        • If 10 of your friends each asked 10 of their friends to sign, you could generate 100 petition signatures! 
        • Using the resources above, share your goal for the number of petition signatures, and ask friends and family personally to set their own goals for petition signatures.

          Frequently Asked Questions

          Why are the climate and biodiversity COPs (Conference of the Parties) so important?

          The COVID crisis is another alarming symptom of global unsustainable development that has created the ecological emergency and related social impacts that we are experiencing today.  Pope Francis said to world leaders at the Earth Summit in April – ‘We do not come out of a crisis the same, we come out better, or we come out worse’.  So far, much of the global responses to the COVID pandemic have reinforced the current unsustainable model.  

          These upcoming United Nations COP meetings, or Conferences of the Parties (COP 15 on biodiversity and COP 26 on climate change), are critical global meetings in 2021 where we have the opportunity to demand that world leaders commit to bold and just action on the ecological crisis, in line with the best science. This is critical if we wish to ‘come out better’ after COVID.   

          Halting biodiversity loss and limiting global warming to the 1.5 degree celsius limit set out in the Paris Agreement are inextricably linked. Climate change is already exacerbating biodiversity loss and according to the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, it is set to be a key driver of biodiversity loss by the end of the century. At the same time, one of the keys to limiting global warming is to protect and restore nature and its critical ecosystems, such as forests that absorb CO2 emissions. 

          With strong public pressure in the run up to these COPs from this petition and other actions around the globe, we have an important opportunity to demand real action now for a liveable future for us all.

          What is biodiversity? Why is it important?

          Biodiversity is the variety and int7erconnected diversity of life in all its many manifestations.    It refers to diversity of species of life, as well as genes (genetic make up within and between populations) organisms (species, subspecies etc) and ecological systems (e.g. forests, coral reefs etc).  A functional biodiversity is crucial for the health and resilience of what ecologists call ‘the web of life’. We, too, are part of this intricately interconnected network.  Biodiversity provides countless services to humanity, including food and shelter, energy, climate regulation, purification of air and water, flood protection, medicine, as well as cultural, recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual services.

          Permanent losses at any level of biodiversity result in degradation at all other levels. When ecosystem health is compromised due to extensive loss of biodiversity, all life, including human life, is at risk of losing the foundation of survival. It is for this reason that Pope Francis stated to world leaders in April this year, ‘We must care for nature so that nature may care for us.’ 

          From the perspective of faith communities however, protecting biodiversity is about more than protecting ourselves. We help other creatures not just to benefit ourselves, but because it is the right thing to do. Laudato Si’ reaffirms Catholic Social Teaching on the intrinsic value of every creature and species on earth.  Protecting God’s Creation is, as Pope Francis puts it in Laudato Si’, a “vocation that is essential to a life of virtue” and not merely an “optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”  Loss of God’s creatures due to the activities of humans is an ecological sin.”

          Why is it urgent?

          According to the 2020 Living Planet Report the number of lost mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes has reached 68%. While even without humans, extinction is a normal part of evolution, today, human-caused biodiversity loss is global in scale. It is driven by increased land use changes, for example for residential, agriculture, transport and commercial use, as well as unsustainable hunting and harvesting, invasive species, pollution and climate change. We are currently on a trajectory for a sixth mass extinction.

          Permanent losses at any level of biodiversity result in degradation at all other levels. When ecosystem health is compromised due to extensive loss of biodiversity, all life, including human life, is at risk of losing the foundation of survival. It is for this reason that Pope Francis stated to world leaders in April this year, ‘We must care for nature so that nature may care for us.’ 

          From the perspective of faith communities however, protecting biodiversity is about more than protecting ourselves. We help other creatures not just to benefit ourselves, but because it is the right thing to do. Laudato Si’ reaffirms Catholic Social Teaching on the intrinsic value of every creature and species on earth.  Protecting God’s Creation is, as Pope Francis puts it in Laudato Si’, a “vocation that is essential to a life of virtue” and not merely an “optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”  Loss of God’s creatures due to the activities of humans is an ecological sin.”

          What is the link between biodiversity and climate? Why is the petition focusing on both COPs?

          This petition campaign focuses on the biodiversity and climate crises together because there are important political decisions being taken on these issues this year – and because the success of each conference is dependent on the success of the other.  

          In this year’s climate COP (COP 26 in the UK) governments are expected to present their updated national commitments to reduce emissions.  We need all governments to align their commitments with their fair share of achieving the 1.5 degree limit to warming. In the biodiversity COP (COP 15 in China) governments will decide on goals on biodiversity and protecting nature.  These goals are essential in their own right, but they are also essential as a package!  

          Unless action to reduce emissions is stepped up to deliver on the 1.5 degree C limit, biodiversity loss will spiral even further.  At the same time, unless we halt biodiversity loss and protect and restore nature, achieving the 1.5 degree C limit safely will become increasingly unlikely.  Nature is our fundamental ally in absorbing emissions. The more nature we protect the more carbon it will absorb.  Only around 50% of the planet remains in a natural state, we must ensure that this is protected and the rest is restored and sustainably managed. 

          Why is it so important to highlight the role of Indigenous peoples and Local Communities?

          The most alarming decline in biodiversity is occuring in areas where some of the most vulnerable people live, namely indigenous, traditional, and rural communities. For these people, who depend most directly on the services of their home ecosystems, the ramifications of biodiversity loss are tremendous.  Indigenous, traditional and rural communities are also the communities on the frontlines of the impacts of the climate crisis.  

          Importantly however, while being among the most at risk – our brothers and sisters in these communities are also our most important allies in the solutions.  They are vocal advocates for action, and bring the wisdom and expertise of countless generations as custodians of the earth.  Scientific evidence has confirmed what was long understood, that indigenous peoples and local communities deliver more positive biodiversity and climate solution outcomes when allowed to stay on and manage their lands. 

          “When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best” (LS 146).  

          In spite of this, indigenous, traditional and rural communities are often sidelined in global and national decision-making, and their rights violated as governments seek to either continue unsustainable economic growth, or to impose top-down, badly thought out policy responses to climate and biodiversity imperatives.

          Read more about the science and theology of biodiversity in the 2021 Laudato Si’ Research Institute report,  ‘The Wailing of God’s Creatures: Catholic Social Teaching, Human Activity and the Collapse of Biological Diversity’. Other resources drawn on in this FAQ include the website of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Living Planet 2020 report and the F20 Policy Briefing on Achieving the Paris Climate Goals in the COVID 19 era.

          What’s the best way to talk about COP 15/ 26 in my community?

          Though biodiversity loss and climate chaos may seem like far away problems, sadly, in most parts of the world, this is not the case. People and ecosystems are feeling the impacts of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss simultaneously right now. 

          Already today we are witnessing the harmful consequences of accelerating biodiversity loss: millions of people are losing their livelihoods, poverty is growing, food and water are becoming increasingly scarce resources, climate change is accelerating, and weather is becoming less predictable. Zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 are reaching pandemic levels more easily. 

          Importantly, just like with the climate crisis, it is mostly people living in poverty who are affected first and hardest by the biodiversity crisis, but it will become a concrete danger to even the most privileged before long. Like with carbon emissions, the human consumption activities that are driving biodiversity loss are completely unbalanced, with the wealthiest 20% of the world’s population using 80% of global resources.

          What are some ecological issues people in your community know about and can relate to? For example, perhaps your community is dealing with increased frequency and severity of floods, droughts, fires, or severe weather.  Maybe birds or insects that were prolific in your childhood are becoming harder to spot.  In most places in the world, bee populations, fundamental to our food system, are under significant pressure. Make the connection between these local issues and the global problems of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Share with your community why you are personally called to take action to address them. 

          This presentation can also be used for online or in person meetings. 

          Why is the Climate COP more talked about than the Biodiversity COP

          The climate crisis is extremely urgent, it’s good that people talk about the climate COP as much as possible.  It actually took many years for awareness of the dangers of climate change to grow and for a civil society movement to expand across the world calling for action. The achievement of the Paris Agreement and increased calls for global ambition on the climate crisis (though still vastly inadequate) are a result of this increasing public pressure. The same historical dynamic now applies to the biodiversity crisis.  Awareness among the public of what biodiversity is, why it’s important and why we need to act currently remains very low. Until we create public pressure on biodiversity, the public will remain unaware and un-engaged, and politicians will not prioritise the issue.  We now need to create pressure for increased ambition on both the climate and biodiversity crises.     

          This petition, alongside actions and petitions from hundreds of other organizations and millions of people, are a critical opportunity to ensure that these interconnected crises are addressed together, and given equal attention on political agendas in the run up to these two important UN meetings.

          What is the Vatican’s position on biodiversity?

          Laudato Si’, the encyclical on the environment written by Pope Francis 6 years ago built on calls from Pope John Paul II twenty years ago for ‘an ecological conversion’.  He said that by acting so recklessly towards nonhuman life, we also jeopardise “a ‘human’ ecology which makes the existence of creatures more dignified, by protecting the fundamental good of life in all its manifestations and by preparing for future generations an environment more in conformity with the Creator’s plan.”  In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis makes abundant reference to the problems created by our unsustainable development. 

          “The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses. Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.” He also highlights the importance for Christians of recognising the intrinsic value of nature and biodiversity. 

          If we do not act urgently, Pope Francis writes, “thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us.”

          In April 2020 the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, with its partners in the Vatican’s COVID Commission, organised a webinar on the topic of Catholic Social Teaching and biodiversity. The webinar featured Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery. See the recording here.

          Who is this petition addressed to and why does it matter?

          This petition is addressed to the presidents of the two COPs (Conference of the Parties). It is also addressed to the political leaders participating in both COPs as they have a huge role to play in putting forward ambitious national targets for No More biodiversity loss and committing to actions in line with the 1.5 degree climate target. When decision makers hear from millions of people around the globe about the importance of protecting climate and biodiversity, they will be called to respond. That’s why your signature, and the signatures of hundreds of people in your community really matters.

          If I am not Catholic, can I sign this petition?

          Yes! This petition is for all people of goodwill, people of faith and everyone who care about our common home.  We all need to encourage our world leaders to act urgently and decisively to care for our common home.

          How can I share this petition?

          Once you’ve signed the petition, there will be buttons to share it on social media channels like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The suggestions at the top of this document are great ideas for engaging your community in signing the petition – but we encourage you to get creative! What are the ways information is shared in your community? Come up with your own ideas for encouraging others to get involved, and let us know what is working!

          What else can I do to care for the creation?

          One of the best things you can do is set a big goal for the number of people you get involved by signing this petition. Reach out to organizations, your parish, your neighbors, your school, workplace, family, friends. The more signatures we have on this petition, the more power we have to get world leaders to take bold action. 

          We also encourage you to join the Laudato Si’ Animators training program, which will be offered this fall. The course will give you resources and a global community to support you in caring for creation in a bigger way in your local community, through 2021 and beyond. 

          When will this petition be presented?

          This petition will be presented to the Presidents of both COPs ahead of and at the conferences, in partnership with other groups working to ensure bold action to address the climate and biodiversity crises. National actors are also invited and encouraged to work together to present the national signatures to their government leaders ahead of these conferences so that pressure is brought to bear at national level.

          How can I continue acting against climate change?

          Join the Laudato Si’ Animators training program, which will give you resources and a global community to support you in caring for creation in a bigger way in your community.

          How can I join LSM?

          Sign up for our email list here: https://catholicclimatemovement.global/#join

          How can I get more information about LSM?

          https://laudatosimovement.org/ will give more information about the Laudato Si’ Movement, which is hosting this petition in partnership with other organisations.

          How can I sign the petition?