The Laudato si’ inspired ‘green’ British Embassy

British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy, tells us what makes their embassy ‘green’, and how Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ inspired this – as the world prepares to celebrate 5 years since its publication.

By Francesca Merlo

The British Embassy to the Holy See has had “many sources of inspiration” and we have been “working hard to make our operations greener”, says Sally Axworthy, British Ambassador to the Holy See. “In Laudato si’, the Holy Father calls on us all to act, taking personal and corporate responsibility to protect our planet”, she says. At the same time, “the Foreign and Commonwealth office is equally committed, with an ambitious programme to become a responsible green, global operation”. The British Embassy has in fact implemented their #BeyondPlastic campaign, which aims to get rid of all single use plastics, says the Ambassador. “We have, for example, asked our main food supplier to stop sending us food packaged in plastic”, she says.

So what does the British Embassy do to be more ‘green’?

“We are using homemade cleaning materials where possible – vinegar for windows, and baking soda and lemon juice for general cleaning, going back to our grandmothers’ know-how. We have also introduced organic, biodegradable detergents.  When we were still hosting events, we were serving more vegetarian menus made with local produce, reducing our demand for meat and our carbon miles. In the office we have compostable coffee pods, recycled paper and pens made of paper”, says the Ambassador.

The British Embassy also uses “100% green energy and has an electric car”, adds Ambassador Axworthy. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has “made it possible for embassies like ours to buy electric vehicles and install charging points:  30 other UK missions around the world have replaced their official cars with all-electric or hybrid vehicles”. The team at the British Embassy to the Holy See “have driven the agenda with creative ideas and personal commitment”, adds the Ambassador and “we continue to be ambitious, setting ourselves the target of reducing paper consumption by 50% this year”.

The importance of Laudato Si’

Sunday 24 May marks the 5th anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis’s second encyclical ” Laudato si’”.

“Laudato si’ was an important contribution to the global debate at a key moment”, says Ambassador Axworthy. The encyclical, came out just a few months ahead of the Paris meeting, COP21. “It undoubtedly raised ambition for the Paris Agreement”, says Ambassador Axworthy.  “It reminded us that faith leaders can chart the path to the kind of future that we want and need”.

5 years on

According to Ambassador Axworthy, “five years on there has been a shift in public attitudes”. She says this has been “driven partly by Laudato si’, but also by climate change campaigners, and by the effects of climate change that we are all seeing as temperatures rise and our weather becomes less predictable”. 

Next year, the UK and Italy will co-host the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, postponed from this autumn, she says. “The UK Presidency is committed to taking a collaborative, inclusive and all-of-society approach to COP26, encouraging real-world action from business, civil society, cities and the science community”. Ambassador Axworthy says that “building on the science-led approach and decisive action that we have seen in response to coronavirus, we hope that COP26 will galvanise action to limit the world’s temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius”.

She concludes by saying that “the leadership of Pope Francis and other faith leaders will again be essential to achieving that aim” and expresses her delight “that between now and then we will be celebrating a year of Laudato si’ events, keeping the focus firmly on the environment”.

Finally, Ambassador Axworthy writes that as an Embassy, the British Embassy to the Holy See “will continue to work at the local and the global levels to secure a more sustainable future for our planet and for the next generation”.