United Nations Urges Religious Groups to Reduce Carbon
In a speech at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London yesterday, the United Nations climate change secretariat Christiana Figueres called on religious groups to slash their carbon emissions. Figueres highlighted the moral imperative for shifting to a low-carbon economy and said “tough love” was needed to deliver ambitious action on climate change.
“Dear friends, for the first time in history we human beings now have the power to alter the physical foundations of life on this planet,” said Figueres. “But as ever throughout history we also have the responsibility to set the ethical foundation of our global society. We have done this with slavery and with apartheid. It is time to do it with climate change.”
Figueres isn’t the first to put the pressure on religious groups. Archbishop Desmond Tutu also cited religion’s moral prerogative as a reason why more faith groups should divest from fossil fuels.
“During the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, using boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and supported by our friends overseas, we were not only able to apply economic pressure on the unjust state, but also serious moral pressure,” Tutu wrote in a recent article in The Guardian. “It is clear that those countries and companies primarily responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money.”
As Figueres and Tutu both point out, religious groups have a moral duty to reduce their carbon emissions and divest from fossil fuel companies — a duty some religious groups already recognize. In Canada, the congregation of Trinity-St. Paul’s United in Toronto voted unanimously to divest from fossil fuel companies. The UK Quakers decided to divest part of their fossil fuel assets on ethical grounds. And in the US, 12 religious institutions have divested from fossil fuels.
“If ever there has been a David and Goliath situation, this is it,” said the Rev. Jim Antal, minister and president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, whose board of directors voted to divest its assets from fossil fuel companies within five years, becoming the first religious body in the United States to do so.
But there is still a lot that can be done. Earlier this year, religious groups in North America and Australia sent a letter to Pope Francis calling for the Catholic Church’s divestment from fossil fuel companies. The Catholic Church still has yet to respond.
And religious groups can cut their internal carbon emissions by looking at commute patterns, waste, and energy use. If you need an example of a church that takes carbon reductions seriously, look no further than the First Congregational Church of Berkeley. Organizations like Interfaith Power & Light and Green Faith also provide tools religious groups can use to reduce their carbon emissions.
All of this needs to happen now. Despite Figueres confidence that an international deal would be signed to reduce carbon emissions in 2015, she voiced concern about the shape of the agreement and specifically whether it would be sufficient to “bend the emissions curve” downwards and put the global economy on course towards decarbonization.
“My concern is timing,” she said. “If we do not have a strong draft this year, if we are not able to attain a strong agreement in 2015, if we do not bend the emissions curve this decade . . . we face unprecedented systemic risks to the global population and economy.”
This only puts greater pressure on religious groups to act now. Gone are the days where groups have the luxury to launch an investigation into their investment strategies. Gone are the days when houses of worship could keep lights burning at all hours.
“Today we live in an unprecedented time in the history of mankind: the Anthropocene era, when humans have the power – intentionally or not – to transform our planet Earth for good or for ill,” said Figueres. Let’s pray that religious groups have the foresight, guidance, and leadership to be on the side of good.
News and Photo Source: Business Green
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