Skip to content

It appears that a Roman Curia cardinal was hoodwinked when he signed a much-publicised deal in 2007 with two entrepreneurs from the United States and Hungary who were supposed to turn the Vatican into the world’s first carbon-neutral state.

An item on the Notebook page in the 21 July 2007 issue of The Tablet entitled “Vatican footprint” described how the San Francisco-based Planktos Co and its Budapest-based partner KlimaFa (“climate trees”) would plant a certain number of trees in proportion to each unit of carbon dioxide that Vatican City emitted. Cardinal Paul Poupard, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, signed the agreement with Planktos and KlimaFa on 5 July. One of his aides at the time, Mgr Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, touted the scheme as an ecologically brilliant idea. And, even better, it would not cost the Vatican a penny.

Now it turns out, however, that it was too good to be true. Recent reports said that, nearly two years after the now-retired Cardinal Poupard signed the agreement, the two companies have not planted a single tree. The “Vatican Forest”, which was supposed to be situated along the Tisza River in Hungary, remains treeless. A Vatican spokesman was quoted as saying, “The case is being studied to take legal action in order to defend the Vatican’s reputation”. But the carbon off-balancing scheme smelled fishy from the start. University of Leuven professor, Fr Jacques Haers SJ, warned against it at the time. He said that is risked “turning the global-warming issue into mere economic hocus-pocus”.

The Tablet 1 May 2010