Image credit: Sergey Gabdurackmanov, used under Creative Commons license
In some ways, Pope Benedict has some impressive eco-credentials. He is making moves to build the biggest solar power plant in Europe, and he has spoke out passionately at COP15 about the need to fight climate change. Proponents of population control as an environmental priority will be less impressed with His Holiness however, and now another segment of the Green world has its reasons to gripe too—the UK Government's Department of Energy and Climate Change, already struggling under cuts and austerity measures, is being handed a huge bill to pay for the Pope's visit. They are not happy. According to The Guardian, the costs for the Pope's visit were split between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and five other departments including the embattled Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC); Department for Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA); and the departments of communities and local government, education and international development. The reasoning, said the Foreign Office, was that the costs were split between agencies deemed to have responsibility on policy areas related to the Pope's visit.
The departments affected, and many green campaigners, are far from impressed. Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, told The Guardian:
"At a time of severe financial cuts when Decc itself is fighting for survival it seems quite extraordinary that these departments should have been asked to contribute to the Pope's visit which it seems has little or nothing to do with advancing aims on climate change."
Meanwhile Jonathan Porritt, the former chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission (which itself was axed earlier this year), took a more tongue in cheek—though no less outraged—stance:
"My comment on this to the secretary of state for Decc and Defra is 'say 10 Hail Marys and rethink your priorities.'"
No word yet on whether there were any concrete outcomes for the environment that resulted from the visit, but the climate and energy secretary, Chris Huhne, did meet with the Vatican lead on climate change, Cardinal Turkson.
That was one expensive meeting.
More on Pope Benedict and the Environment
Pope Benedict's Message for COP15: Respect the Earth, and Human Dignity
Pope to Build the Biggest Solar Power Plant in Europe
Vatican Declares Pollution One of the Most Deadly Mortal Sins