Govt will give 'great weight' to Pope's climate comments

ONE of Australia's top Catholic figures, the Archbishop of Melbourne, has urged the nation's political leaders, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, to re-examine their views on climate change.

Archbishop Denis Hart, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, made the comments after Pope Francis issued a rare "encyclical" on the environment on Friday.

The Pontiff wrote in his first such decree there was scientific consensus that climate change was being caused by human activities.

He wrote that fossil fuels, especially coal, would have to be progressively replaced to limit the effects of climate change.

Archbishop Hart told reporters in Melbourne he was suggesting "our leaders should analyse the situation and look at what the Pope's seeing".

"He wants us to see things in a new light," he said.

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After the Pontiff's encyclical was released, a raft of religious leaders also went public to say that acknowledging the effects of human-induced climate change was not inconsistent with their faith.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull also responded to the decree, telling the ABC he believed "everyone" in the Federal Government would "give great weight" to the Pope's comments.

He said the Pontiff's position was one of "global moral leadership" and that raising environmental issues was part of the role.

Mr Turnbull also said Australia remained committed to playing its part, "proportionate to our size", in reducing global emissions.

The encyclical comes just months ahead of the United Nations' Paris conference, which is intended to set higher targets for carbon emission reductions around the world.

Mr Abbott and his government have been criticised for their "direct action" approach to achieving a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

While China, the US and Europe have already announced some proposed targets, the government is yet to detail its position.

It is understood the government has created a group to advise Cabinet on what Australia's new target, post-2020, should be, and a position is expected ahead of the Paris meeting.

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