(Jul 12, 2007)

Vatican joins reforestation project

By Marta Falconi
From AP

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican is pushing its green agenda, joining a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions for this year, officials said Thursday.

The Vatican accepted a certificate from Hungarian-based firm Planktos/KlimaFa stating that the reforestation of a large area of the Bukk national park in Hungary would compensate for all its emissions this year.

''The amount of polluting emissions has been offset by the reforestation,'' Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca, the undersecretary for the Pontifical Council of Culture, told The Associated Press. ''To eliminate emissions, there are two ways: either you reduce them by renouncing the use of cars or heating systems, for example, or you do something good to compensate them, such as planting trees.''

On July 5, representatives of the firm _ which is dedicated to large-scale tree-planting in the EU _ met with Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the cultural office, to deliver the certificate, the firm said in a statement.

The company is planting the trees and the Vatican's acceptance of the move is purely symbolic.

''These are small initiatives that try to send a signal,'' Sanchez de Toca said. ''We hope that other churches contribute with small gestures to spread the concern for the protection of the environment.''

Just how much of the national park will undergo the reforestation project will be determined by this year's energy usage in the Vatican and its other emission reduction efforts, the statement said.

The reforestation project is part of a broader effort by the Vatican to go green.

Some of the Holy See buildings will start using solar energy next year, with photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity being placed on the roof of the Paul VI auditorium, which is used for the pontiff's general audiences.

Last summer, Pope Benedict XVI called on Christians to unite to take ''care of creation without squandering its resources and (share) them in a convivial manner.'' He said lifestyle choices were damaging the environment and making ''the lives of poor people on Earth especially unbearable.''

The Vatican is also considering solar energy for other Holy See buildings, though historic landmarks like St. Peter's Basilica will not be touched.

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