Vatican urges Trump to reconsider his stance on climate change

ROME, March 30 (Reuters) - The Vatican urged U.S. President Donald Trump to listen to "dissenting voices" and reconsider his position on climate change on Thursday, saying the United States risked being supplanted by China as leader in environmental protection.

Pope Francis has made defense of the environment a key plank of his papacy, strongly backing scientific opinion that global warming is caused mostly by human activity.

"This is a challenge for us," said Cardinal Peter Turkson, the pope's point man for the environmental, immigration and development, when asked about Trump's executive order dismantling Obama-era climate change regulations and his immigration policies.

"Fortunately, in the United States, there are dissenting voices, people who are against Trump's positions," said Turkson, who is from Ghana and was one of the driving forces behind the pope's 2015 encyclical letter on environmental protection.

See the best photos of Pope Francis battling the wind:

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Pope Francis in the wind
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Pope Francis in the wind
A combination photo shows a gust of wind blowing Pope Francis' mantle during his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
A gust of wind blows off Pope Francis' mantle as he speaks during the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
A combination photo shows a gust of wind blowing Pope Francis' skullcap during his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi
The wind blows Pope Francis' mantle as he leaves at the end of the Jubilee audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican May 14, 2016. REUTERS/Alessaandro Bianchi
The wind blows Pope Francis' mantle as he leaves at the end of the Jubilee audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican May 14, 2016. REUTERS/Alessaandro Bianchi 
A combination photo shows a gust of wind blowing Pope Francis' mantle during his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
The wind blows Pope Francis' (L) mantle as he arrives at a Jubilee audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
The wind blows Pope Francis' mantle as he leaves at the end of the mass for the Armed Forces Jubilee in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 30, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
A gust of wind blows Pope Francis' mantle as he stands at the balcony of St. John's in Lateran basilica after celebrating a solemn mass in Rome in this combination picture April 7, 2013. The pontiff officially took possession of the basilica which is his cathedral in his capacity as bishop of Rome. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Pope Francis talks with Archbishop Georg Ganswein as a gust of wind blows his mantle during the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Pope Francis holds his mantle blown by a gust of wind as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile 
The wind blows Pope Francis' mantle as he leads a Jubilee audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
The wind blows Pope Francis' mantle as he leads a Jubilee audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis has his vestments fly up due to the wind as he delivers remarks on the theme "We Hold These Truths," a quote from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, September 26 2015. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Pope Francis has his vestments fly up over his head due to the wind as he delivers remarks in front of a statue of George Washington on the theme "We Hold These Truths," a quote from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, September 26 2015. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
A gust of wind blows Pope Francis' mantle over his face as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Tony Gentile 
A gust of wind blows off Pope Francis' cap during his arrival at the airport in Havana September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
A gust of wind lifts Pope Francis' mantle during his arrival at the airport in Havana, September 19, 2015. Pope Francis begins a nine-day tour of Cuba and the United States on Saturday where he will see both the benefits and complexities of a fast-evolving detente between the old Cold War foes that he helped broker. Better sensitized to the issue than predecessors because of his Latin American roots, the 78-year-old Argentine pontiff facilitated a back channel for talks and sent missives to Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama in 2014. REUTERS/Claudia Daut
A gust of wind blows the mantle of Pope Francis as he leads his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi
A gust of wind blows Pope Francis's skull cap off as a priest tries to grab it during his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Archbishop Georg Ganswein (L) helps Pope Francis with his mantle as a gust of wind blows at the end of the ceremony for the canonisation of four nuns at Saint Peter's square in the Vatican City, May 17, 2015. The four nuns being canonised include two Palestininan nuns, Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, founder of the first Catholic congregation in Palestine, and Mariam Baouardy Haddad, who established a Carmelite convent in Bethlehem. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
A gust of wind blows the mantle of Pope Francis as he stands next to Sri Lanka's newly elected president Mithripala Sirisena (not seen) at the Colombo airport January 13, 2015. Pope Francis said on Tuesday Sri Lanka needed to find out the truth of what happened during its long civil war in order to consolidate peace and heal scars between religious communities. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
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"This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge and so we hope that Trump himself will reconsider some of his decisions," Turkson told reporters at a breakfast meeting.

The pope and the Vatican, which has diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries and a permanent observer status at the United Nations, have strongly backed the international Paris Agreement in 2015 to curb world temperatures.

"We as a Church, are full of hope that (Trump's positions) will change," Turkson said.

After Trump signed his executive order on Tuesday, keeping a campaign promise to bolster the U.S. coal industry, nations led by China and the European Union rallied to support the Paris accord, which Trump has threatened to abandon.

RELATED: Poll - US should lead global fight against climate change

China, which had fought attempts by foreign governments to limit carbon emissions in the past, has become a strong proponent of efforts to halt global warming.

"While Trump is moving in the opposite direction, there is another great power in the world, China, which is showing different signs, as if America is creating a vacuum that China is filling," Turkson said.

He said the Vatican hoped that positions by China, which is investing heavily in the export of clean energy products such as solar panels and wind turbines, "would provoke a re-consideration of the positions of some countries, in this case the United States."

The Vatican was also "very worried" that the U.S. budget, released on March 16, increased military spending at the expense of environmental protection, diplomacy and foreign aid, he added. (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Vin Shahrestani)

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