New LISD White Paper Analyzes the Paris Climate Agreement and the Vatican


In the latest LISD White Paper, "The Impact of Laudato Si’ on the Paris Climate Agreement," former Program on Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations LISD student fellow Irene Burke '16 analyzes the impact of Pope Francis's papal encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home on the United Nations Climate Change Conference of 2015, and the resulting Paris Climate Agreement. Burke argues, "Laudato Si’ exposes tensions in political thought and Catholic social ethics. ... [In it] Francis focuses his evaluation on the relationship between society and the environment, an area of dynamic development in Catholic social teaching."  

Irene Burke graduated from Princeton University in 2016 with an A.B. degree in Politics, cum laude, and certificates in Spanish Language and Culture and Humanistic Studies. Professor Melissa Lane advised her senior thesis, “An Examination of Laudato Si’ in the History of Political Thought, Catholic Social Ethics, and Contemporary Policy.” Burke was a 2015-2016 Fellow of the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination’s Program on Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations and presented research on Catholic environmental ethics and the Paris Climate Agreement at the Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Portugal. She served on the Princeton University Art Museum Student Advisory Board as Vice President, and on the Office of International Programs Student Advisory Board. She was a Bridge Year Program Volunteer in Peru, a Princeton International Intern in India, and participated in the Humanities Sequence research trip in Greece.

LISD White Papers address a specific subject relevant to LISD’s work in a short-paper format discussing subject matter both conceptually and through real world assessments. 


Pope Francis addresses the intersecting concerns of environmental responsibility and authentic human development in the June 2015 papal encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Pope Francis extends Catholic environmental ethics to advocate for those at the margins of social consciousness who are most vulnerable to rapid environmental changes—the global poor and future generations. Pope Francis’ active collaboration with leading experts in climate science and development economics and his perspective as the first non-European Pope strengthens his contributions to ethical discourse on inter- and intra-generational justice, the preferential option for the poor, carbon mitigation policies, and common but differentiated responsibilities in international climate negotiations. His advocacy efforts in 2015 anticipated critical convocations of world leaders, including the UN General Assembly’s ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 and the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015, culminating in a unanimous decision among 195 governments to adopt the Paris Agreement. Pope Francis’ contribution to discourse on international climate policies and sustainable development objectives inspired political cooperation leading up to pivotal international agreements.