Pope Francis on Sunday urged world leaders at the United Nations climate negotiations in Dubai (COP28) to move beyond their national interests and urgently commit to the political changes needed to tackle climate change. 

In remarks in Italian that were broadcast from his official residence onto giant screens on Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, the pope appealed for “concrete political changes” to prevent the planet’s climate spinning dangerously out of control.

“We need to go beyond the constraints of specific interests and nationalities, the models of the past, and embrace a common vision,” Francis said in a written statement that was read out by an aide.

The 86-year-old is recovering from a lung infection that has caused him difficulty breathing, and on Tuesday cancelled his trip to the UN climate summit being hosted by the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

He said he was nonetheless following the COP28 debates closely.

On Saturday, Francis urged the nations negotiating in Dubai to commit to achieving a “breakthrough” to save the planet from the snowballing climate emergency.

The pontiff said the world should stop burning the coal, oil and gas that are generating global-heating greenhouse gas pollution.

Countries must also make obligatory and verifiable improvements in saving energy, expanding the use of renewables and helping people learn to become less reliable on fossil fuels.

Francis has made protecting the environment one of the major themes of his papacy.