Pope Francis addressed the UN on Friday,calling for action on climate change and social injustice

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Credit: Mike Coppola/FilmMagic

Pope Francis has urged world leaders to make decisive steps to combat climate change and preserve the environment in a historic address in front of the United National General Assembly on Friday.

His message, more forceful than his address to the U.S. Congress yesterday, comes as a record number of world leaders meet at the U.N. to debate sustainable development goals for 2030, which aim to combat global warming and poverty.

“Any harm done to the environment is harm to humanity,” Francis said after noting that the environment holds intrinsic rights of its own.

“We human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect.”

He later added: “The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.”

Following his speech, he traveled to Lower Manhattan, where he visited the 9-11 memorial and museum at the World Trade Center.

Speaking to the U.N. in his native Spanish, the 78-year-old also addressed of social justice.

World leaders applauded the pontiff several times as he delivered his address from the green marble podium on his first full day in New York.

Specifically, the crowd erupted in praise when Francis spoke of “oppressive lending systems,” education for girls and numerous social injustices like human trafficking, international organized crime, child exploitation, slave labor and more.

A recurring theme of the Pope’s address though, centered on what he called a “human fraternity.”

“No human individual group can consider itself absolute permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings,” the 78-year-old said.

He continued: “We are dealing with real men and woman who are often forced to live in great poverty and deprived of all rights we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.”

In all of his points, the Pope exhorted leaders to use their platforms to make a change, rather than simply “drawing up long lists.”

He spoke passionately about religious freedom and justice for ethnic minorities, but in all of the issues he addressed, he repeatedly circled back to the topic of climate change.

Francis specifically endorsed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which world leaders are in town to debate.

“I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climate Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements,” the 78-year-old said.

Many world leaders looked on in awe, and when the Pope concluded his speech, gave a standing ovation.

After his speech, the Pope headed to the Ground Zero memorial. Crowds cheered as the pontiff bowed his head to pray in front of the memorial inscribed with the names of the many who died in the 9/11 terror attacks.

In addition to his UN address, Francis is set to meet with both the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, according to the UN He will participate in a town hall meeting with UN staff as well.