Pope Francis orders Vatican to switch to solar energy

The Santa Maria di Galeria site where the solar array will be installed (Croberto68/CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Vatican City is planning to fit enough solar panels to provide all of its 526 citizens and 5 million annual visitors with renewable energy.

The plan, reported by Vatican News, was announced by Pope Francis in an apostolic letter issued motu proprio – that is, on his own initiative.

The letter to the church is titled “Brother Sun”, a reference to St Francis of Assisi. In it, he issues an instruction to the Vatican authorities to work with Italian officials to turn the city into a green organisation.

The pope sets the goal of carbon neutrality, to which end he orders the construction of a solar plant in Santa Maria di Galeria, a site some 17km from Rome that is owned by Vatican Radio.

The 424ha site will also be used for agriculture – making it an “agrivoltaic” development.

Francis backs his decision by recalling the Holy See’s accession, in 2022, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He underlines its desire “to contribute to the efforts of all states to offer … an adequate response to the challenges posed to humanity and our common home by climate change”.

The construction of the plant will be overseen by Cardinal Fernando Véregez Alzaga, president of the governorate of the Vatican City State, and Archbishop Giordano Piccinotti, president of the administration of the patrimony of the Apostolic See.

The two have been named “extraordinary commissioners”, with full powers to bring the scheme to completion, while also empowering them to communicate with the Italian government in accordance with the Lateran Treaty that governs relation between the two.

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