Hailing the COP22 Interfaith Climate Change Statement

Hailing the COP22 Interfaith Climate Change Statement, world governments and the United Nations are recognizing the valuable contributions that faith-based organizations are offering in response to global warming.

Addressing climate change as a moral issue, religious leaders are playing a prominent role in engaging civil society’s attention and interest in climate action.

Interfaith Climate Demonstration in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican. Credit: blogs.state.gov
Interfaith Climate Demonstration in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican. Credit: blogs.state.gov

Nearly Every Religion has a Climate Change Statement

In fact, nearly every religion has issued a statement on climate change. Over 1.8 million people across the globe signed faith-based petitions last year urging political leaders to take strong action on climate change at the COP21 in Paris.

Maintaining this conscious pressure, the 2016 COP22 Interfaith Climate Change Statement represents a joint collaboration of over 240 religious leaders from over 30 faith-based organizations from all over the world, including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Quaker, Sikh, Unitarian Universalists, Indigenous, and other Spiritual leaders.

Addressing Climate Change by Mobilizing Voices

With all this unified moral pressure coming to bear on political leaders, exciting progress is being made. As of November 15, 2016, 193 out of 197 state parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have signed the Paris Agreement. No convention, agreement, or treaty has ever entered into force in such a short period of time in the history of the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with only 6 weeks remaining before retirement, stated at the COP22, “I have made climate action a priority since my first day in office.” He added, “Addressing climate change is critical to protecting our planet, safeguarding the most vulnerable and advancing shared prosperity. It was truly a privilege to make this journey with so many partners from around the world who are committed to leaving a healthier planet to future generations.”

UNSG Ban hailed the tremendous progress “in mobilizing voices of every age, from every nation, in support of a safer, clean energy future.” He added, “I call on civil society organizations to continue to keep governments accountable to their promises.”

UNSG Ban Ki-moon speaking at the COP22. Credit: UN.org
UNSG Ban Ki-moon speaking at the COP22. Credit: UN.org

Opening the Discourse on Faith-Based Climate Action

Kicking off the COP22 Climate Change Summit in Marrakech, Morocco, under the high patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the Fez Climate Conscience Summit opened up the discourse on faith-based climate action.

As reported by Sabita Geer for the Brahma Kumaris at the United Nations, many religious leaders offered spiritual advice.

“Nature is the creation of God,” stated Mr. Abdelhai Amor of the council of Ulama of Fez, “and, as such, we need to recreate our relationship with the environment.” Amor added, “the feeling of ownership has led to the destruction of the environment, to climate change and epidemics… so we need to correct this perception.”

Ahmed Abbadi, Secretary-General of the Rabita Mohammadia of Ulamas, explained, “We must free ourselves of a relationship that has become abstract, disconnected from nature.” Abbadi stated, “It is urgent to release us from this abstraction and reconnect with our mother – Earth. The awakening of consciences will happen through this metamorphosis.”

Sister Jayanti, Director of Brahma Kumaris for Europe and the Middle East, offered a profound explanation: “What has happened during the last 100 years is that we have listen(ed) more to economics, media and politics, but not to the voice of conscience: it has therefore become numb.” She continued, “The voice of conscience has stopped. If you don’t listen to a friend, as a good friend, he won’t talk to you anymore… the same happened with our conscience, and we didn’t listen because we follow(ed) the way others are going.”

“It is a crisis of values and esteem the world is facing today,” stated Sister Jayanti. “Respect starts when we go inside, see and value the qualities inside and, in respecting the self, respect extends to others, all forms of life and the planet we share. So, I believe we need to listen to the inner being.”

Beautiful Marrakech, Morocco, venue for COP22. Credit: un.brahmakumaris.org
Beautiful Marrakech, Morocco, venue for COP22. Credit: un.brahmakumaris.org

The relationship between spirituality and conscious awareness of nature is clearly a trending theme for the COP22 unfolding in beautiful Marrakech, Morocco. The 2016 Interfaith Climate Change Statement also explores this special relationship. Its authors state, “We must commit to new ways of living that honor the dynamic relationships between all forms of life to deepen awareness and the spiritual dimension of our lives.”

“We appeal to all people living today to draw on courage, hope, wisdom and spiritual reflection to enable our young and future generations to inherit a more caring and sustainable world. This is the time to step forward and act as trustees to Mother Earth. Together, by supporting each other’s progress we can go further and faster.”

Global Unity Around Climate Change is Unstoppable

During his recent speech at the COP22, UNSG Ban Ki-moon announced, “The global unity around climate change once seemed to be unthinkable but now it has become unstoppable. Look around us! It’s not just governments and business CEOs and civil societies have shown their such strong commitment to address and working together. They have mobilized for a better future.”

Addressing concerns regarding President-elect Trump’s notorious views on climate change, Ban responded, “I think I have explained at length about our expectations and our hope that newly elected President-elect Mr. Trump will really hear and understand the seriousness and urgency of addressing climate change.”

“It is not only just a few countries,” continued the Secretary-General. “I think most of all the countries, 193 now, they have signed and more than 75 percent of global greenhouse emissions accounted for by 109 countries [that ratified]. So it’s wholehearted commitment by the whole world. Then as President of the United States, I am sure that he will understand this, he will listen, he will evaluate his campaign remarks. We have seen many such campaign rhetorics not only in the United States but in many parts of the world.”

UNSG Ban continued, “all of us have a common moral responsibility. And I am asking political leaders, they should have strong political responsibility and moral responsibility. Their mandate may be limited – four years, eight years, ten years – but our planet Earth, our world is eternal. So we have to address this climate change phenomenon.”

“This what I am telling, not as only Secretary-General, but as one (of) the citizens of this world.” Ban advised, “We have to work very hard, very seriously and urgently.”

“As I said often, we don’t have plan B because there is no planet B.”

COP22 Interfaith Climate Change Statement Handover Ceremony. Credit: GreenFaith via Flickr
COP22 Interfaith Climate Change Statement Handover Ceremony. Credit: GreenFaith via Flickr

COP22 INTERFAITH STATEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE:

10th November 2016

Statement by Religious, Spiritual and Faith-based leaders for the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) during the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22).

At this historic moment, as the Paris Agreement enters into force, an unprecedented global consensus has produced a universal framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to build greater resilience to climate impacts. We are profoundly grateful for the leadership that produced this Agreement and are mindful of the challenges and complexity ahead. Now it is time to move to urgent action.

Climate change is already having global impacts, disproportionately affecting poor and marginalized communities. How we turn the corner to harness the worst impacts of climate change depends on the work we do in the next ten, five, even two years. Each and every one of us must act on the reality of the climate crisis, so that the damage we inflict upon the Earth ceases and the ecosystems on which all life depends can heal.

At this critical juncture, as governments implement the Agreement, we must deepen our awareness and discern what it means to be in the right relationship with one another, Mother Earth and all living beings. Our desire for limitless growth and power is having devastating consequences – leaving our Earth community polluted, impoverished and vulnerable. We ask those who make decisions on how energy systems are financed, sourced and distributed to ground their decisions in a humble and compassionate reverence for the interconnectedness of all life.

If we continue to damage our vital support system through over-exploitation, contamination and destruction of the climate that protects us, the life-giving minerals, soil that feeds us, the oceans and freshwater sources that sustain us— we do so at our own peril.

Global society’s continued use of fossil fuels and other extractive industries, while knowing the damage they cause, is ethically untenable. We must deliberately turn away from investing in fossil fuels and we stand together, to call for a collective shift by sovereign wealth funds and public sector pension funds from fossil fuels towards climate solutions. This will send a necessary and transformative signal to public and private borrowers and investors worldwide and will help end the fossil fuel era.

We demand that States be bound by ethical decency and good faith to honour their commitments made in the Agreement. We therefore insist, for the safety of all, on an urgent increase in climate action and ambition by all Governments, with rapid emission reductions in line with limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

In addition to focusing on the substantive articles of the Agreement, we call on all nations when taking action to address climate change, to uphold the obligations contained in the preamble of the Agreement. In particular, States’ obligations on human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality, a just transition, food security and intergenerational equity. We stress that the full and equal participation of women, indigenous societies and youth in addressing climate change will accelerate efforts towards a low carbon economy and significantly contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, that aims to end energy poverty by 2030.

We strongly urge for global financial flows to be increased and consistent with the 1.5C° goal and be coordinated more closely with the SDGs to recognise the intrinsic relationship between climate change, poverty eradication and equitable sustainable development. More finance is needed to provide adequate support for the poor and vulnerable communities affected by climate change. We find it deeply unjust that Least Developed Countries (LDCs) will spiral deeper into debt in paying for a problem they have inherited. We therefore strongly urge governments to support an equitable increase in global financial flows to provide for greater human and ecological adaptation, particularly to compensate for loss and damage, technology transfer and capacity building.

At the same time, we are concerned by trade agreements that may undercut urgently needed climate action. Especially, we demand stricter controls on the dispute mechanisms within trade agreements that contain provisions that empower corporations to challenge government policies in extrajudicial tribunals.

As we call on world leaders to embrace new policies to protect our precious climate, many faith communities have already committed to divest from fossil fuels as part of the fastest-growing divestment movement ever. Faith groups are also investing in climate solutions and we work shoulder to shoulder with people in impoverished communities across the world to minimise the impacts of climate change and build resilience. We ask our own faith communities for more divest commitments from fossil fuels and investments into renewable energy, and, or engagement with companies on climate change based on a just transition to renewable energy.

Throughout history, our religious traditions have provided support and inspiration during times of great challenge or transformation. Across all faiths, we share a moral obligation to not harm others, to be fair and to care for the vulnerable. We must commit to new ways of living that honor the dynamic relationships between all forms of life. We call on us all to be caretakers of the Earth, to be of service to one another and to work together as a global community to support each other’s progress. We appeal to all people living today to draw on courage, hope, wisdom and spiritual reflection to enable our young and future generations to inherit a more caring and sustainable world. This is the time to step forward and act as trustees to Mother Earth and together we can go further and faster.

We therefore:

• Insist that governments rapidly increase pledges to reduce emissions, in line with the 1.5°C goal;

• Call for a collective shift by sovereign wealth funds and public sector pension funds away from fossil fuels into renewables and other climate solutions;

• Strongly urge governments to support an increase in global financial flows to end energy poverty with renewable energy to provide for greater human and ecological adaptation, particularly to compensate for loss and damage, technology transfer and capacity building;

• Call on all nations when taking action to address climate change, to ensure the commitments contained in the preamble of the Agreement related to human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality, a just transition, food security, intergenerational equity and the integrity of all ecosystems, are effectively reflected in any decision adopted at the COP22;

• Demand stricter controls on the dispute mechanisms within trade agreements that utilize extrajudicial tribunals to challenge government policies;

• Ask, including within our own faith communities, for more commitments to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy and, or engage with companies on climate change based on just transition to renewable energy.

(Read this historic statement and witness the incredible diversity of its visionary signatories here.)

 

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About the Author

Aisha Abdelhamid (Birth-name Kathleen Vail) is a freelance lifestyle and environmental science writer currently living in Vancouver, BC. Her interests include environmental conservation, climate science, renewable energy, faith-based environmental activism, sustainable economics, corporate social responsibility, creative lifestyles, and healthy living.