By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) -Pope Francis said on Wednesday that he will attend the COP28 climate conference starting next month in Dubai, the first time a pontiff will be at the U.N. environmental meeting since they began in 1995.
The pope told Italy's state-run RAI television TG1 news in an interview that he expected to be in Dubai Dec. 1-3. The conference runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12.
In Dubai, the pope is expected to drive home his recent appeal for action to curb global warming.
"We are still in time to stop it," Francis said in the interview, speaking of global warming. "Our future is at stake, the future of our children and our grandchildren. A bit of responsibility is needed."
Francis, 86, has made protection of the environment one of the hallmarks of his papacy and met last month with COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber.
In a major document on Oct. 4, Francis appealed to climate change deniers and foot-dragging politicians to have a change of heart, saying they cannot gloss over human causes or deride science while the planet "may be nearing the breaking point".
The document, known as an Apostolic Exhortation and titled Laudate Deum (Praise God), was a follow-up to Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment "Laudato Si" (Praise Be).
Laudate Deum was prompted by recent extreme weather events and mentioned the challenges facing COP28 several times.
Failure in Dubai, Francis said in the document, "will be a great disappointment and jeopardize whatever good has been achieved thus far".
Heads of state usually attend only the opening sessions of the conferences and make keynote addresses. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke at the start of the last two meetings at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last year and Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. Such conferences are also occasions for bilateral meetings.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Diane Craft and Jonathan Oatis)