Religious leaders call for urgent climate action ahead of crucial Glasgow conference

(Photo: LWF/ Rodrick Beiler)Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dances with Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of South Africa to celebrate some 1.8 million signatures on an interfaith petition for climate justice during the COP21 climate summit in Paris, France.

A broad spectrum of religious leaders from across Christianity and other faiths have signed the Glasgow Multi-Faith Declaration which calls for those in power to put the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change into effect as the world reels from natural catastrophes this year.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by the 196 attending parties at the COP21 in 2015 made up of the world's countries.

Ahead of the November global summit in Scotland the faith leaders warn there is an "urgent need" for action to limit the effects of climate change.

In their statement, they blame climate change on people who have "exploited the planet", noting that those impacted most ate living in poverty, "but especially women and children" are feeling the damage "most heavily."

"Our faith communities are united in caring for human life and the natural world. We share a belief in a hopeful future, as well as an obligation to be responsible in caring for our common home, the Earth," they say.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment, according to United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, speaking on Sept 10 ahead of a key address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25.

"According to the World Meteorological Organization, the past two decades included 18 of the warmest years since record-keeping began in 1850," said the UN Secretary-General.

"This year, for the first time, thick permanent sea ice north of Greenland began to break up. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the highest in 3 million years...We must listen to the Earth's best scientists."

The moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the senior rabbi of Scotland, the chief imam of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society and the bishop of Norwich are among the signatories.

The declaration, which is being made during the Sept 18-26 Climate Fringe Week, which stresses that urgent action is needed to avert the loss, damage, and forced migration threatened by climate change.


"Across our doctrinal and political differences, we know that we must change our ways to ensure a quality of life which all can share, and we need to provide hope for people of all ages, everywhere, including future generations," said Maureen Sier, director of Interfaith Scotland.

"To offer hope in the world we need to have confidence that those in power understand the vital role they have to play at the Glasgow COP26."

The COP26 summit hosted in Scotland's biggest city, will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and the summit will be attended by the countries that signed the UN Framework Convention (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994.

Religious leaders are asking for a transition to a just and green economy and for governments to commit to science-based targets aligned with a zero-emissions future.

The declaration follows on from the 2015 interfaith Lambeth Declaration and the Scottish Religious Leaders' Forum Statement of Commitment of 2020.

Interfaith Scotland, Imam Razawi, and the Church of Scotland were instrumental in gathering signatories from faith communities including Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Zoroastrian.

Jim Wallace of Tankerness, moderator of the General Assembly of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, said, "Our faith communities are united in caring for human life and the natural world. We share a belief in a hopeful future, as well as an obligation to be responsible in caring for our common home, the Earth.

"Our collective energy and prayers will be with those working for a successful outcome."

He was joined by Rabbi Moshe Rubin, senior rabbi of Scotland, who said, "

"We remind governments of their commitments made in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, and of Article 17 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights to protect the environment, the biosphere and biodiversity.

"We look to governments to work together and with others to create a positive vision for 2050 where addressing climate change is not just an opportunity to stop burning fossil fuels, but also: to achieve cleaner air and water; to reduce food wastage; to ensure a just and equitable sharing of the earth's resources; and to protect the habitats we share with all other life on whose health we also depend."

Sayed Razawi, chief imam and director general of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, also joined in the statement.

"We commit to respond to this challenge by: Reflecting deeply in prayer, meditation and worship to discern how to care for the earth and each other, and to encourage our respective communities to do the same," said the imam.

"Making transformational change in our own lives and in the lives of our communities through individual and collective action. Being advocates for justice by calling on governments, businesses and others who exercise power and influence to put into effect the Paris agreement."

Christian leaders who have signed the letter include the Coptic Archbishop of London, Archbishop Angaelos, the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Rev Lynn Green, and the Church of England's environmental lead, Bishop John Arnold, Christian Today reports.

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