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Pope Francis is warning that it would be “catastrophic” if special interests get in the way of a global agreement to curb the fossil fuel emissions blamed for global warming at a meeting next week in Paris over climate change.

In a speech to the African U.N. headquarters on Thursday, Francis said the Paris negotiations mark a crucial step in developing a new energy system that “corrects the dysfunctions and distortions” of the current model of development and fights poverty.

Francis has made ecological concerns a hallmark of his nearly 3-year-old papacy. But on Thursday, he took particular aim at those who deny the science behind climate change.

In the United States, that accounts for several Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers, who have opposed steps U.S. President Barack Obama has taken on his own to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

He said: “It would be sad, and dare I say even catastrophic, were special interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and interests.”

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