UN Secretary Urges Faith Leaders to Be Bold in Tackling Climate Change

The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told religious leaders they should 'act more boldly,' in petitioning government for climate change action. (Photo: STR/EPA)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday urged faith leaders to be more bold in their advocacy for climate change during a summit at Windsor Castle in London.

"We have know-how and resources but the only vacuum is political will, that is all that is lacking," Ban said. "You can provoke, challenge and inspire political leaders."

Speaking to over 200 representatives of various faith communities, Ban reminded the leaders of their influence in society.

"I have long believed that when governments and civil society work toward a common goal, transformational change is possible," Ban said. "Faiths and religions are a central part of that equation."

"Indeed, the world's faith communities occupy a unique position in discussions on the fate of our planet and the accelerating impacts of climate change," he added.

Duke of Edingburgh Prince Philip, who co-hosted the summit, told the leaders that they have a "moral responsibility" for protection of the environment and stressed the urgency of the time to take action.

"The fact that the majority of the world's faiths ascribe the creation of the world to an all-powerful deity, implies that the leaders and followers of each faith have a moral responsibility for the continued well-being of our planet, and particularly for its natural environment," he said. "In recent times it has become apparent that the sheer size of the human population, and its consequent increasing demand for natural resources, is seriously threatening the future health of our planet and the welfare of all life on Earth."

During the meeting, each religious group reported on how they plan to combat climate change, with 31 official long-term commitments announced.

Buddhists in China reported that they plan to promote vegetarianism and to be more moderate in their approach to burning incense sticks. Sikhs pledged to use solar power in their gurdwaras and to conduct energy audits.

Muslims revealed a Seven Year action plan that included making several Middle Eastern cities, such as Sala in Morrocco and Dar Al Iftaa in Egypt, "carbon neutral in 2010," according to the Sheikh Ali Goma, Grand Mufti of Egypt.

Nigel Savage, founder of New York-based environmental group Hazon, reported on the Jewish Climate Campaign and Pledge which he said will encourage, "every synagogue, ,school, JCC, camp, every Jewish organization, every Jewish-owned business, every Hillel, every youth group - to set up a Green Team."

Christian commitments included one from the Church of England, which pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 42 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

In the U.S., New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore said it will be developing its new $41 million church to be energy efficient and will also feature programs for teaching people to return to simpler lifestyles.

The interfaith summit took place less than 40 days before the UN's meeting on climate change in December, which Ban told reporters that he is, "reasonably optimistic," about being "a very important milestone," while adding that, "realistically speaking, we may not be able to agree [on] all the words."

Ban's hope is that countries involved in the Dec. 7-18 Copenhagen meeting will be able to agree on at least four points, including level of emissions cuts for rich nations; plans to reduce emissions for poor nations; a financial package to help developing countries to adapt; and a system to manage the process.

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