Statement from Religious Leaders: United Nations Climate Change Conference

Statement from Religious Leaders: United Nations Climate Change Conference

We raise our voices to the governments represented at COP21 in Paris to utilize the special momentum given on this highly significant occasion: COP21 provides a critical opportunity to benefit the whole of the human community. For the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a global and comprehensive agreement on climate justice and climate protection – supported from all the nations of the world – can be reached.

We as religious leaders: “stand together to express deep concern for the consequences of climate change on the earth and its people, all entrusted, as our faiths reveal, to our common care. Climate change is indeed a threat to life. Life is a precious gift we have received and that we need to care for”1.

Together we confirm:

Our religious convictions and cosmological narratives tell us that this earth and the whole universe are gifts that we have received from the spring of life, from God. It is our obligation to respect, protect and sustain these gifts by all means.

Therefore: COP21 is the right moment to translate ecological stewardship into concrete climate action.

Our religious convictions and traditions tell us of the ethical rule of reciprocity: to treat others as we would like them to treat us. This includes future generations. It is our duty to leave this earth behind to our children and grandchildren to ensure sustainable and acceptable living conditions in future for all.

Therefore: COP21 is the right moment for showing inter-generational responsibility.

Our religious convictions, social codes and customs tell us about concern for the vulnerable: climate change is leading to unprecedented ecological degradation, affecting in particular the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations. It is an irrefutable moral duty for all governments to agree on concrete and measurable steps towards global climate justice and partnerships for climate resilience.

Therefore: COP21 is the right time for ensuring climate justice.

Our religious convictions and ancestral sources tell us human life is open to the possibility of change and renewal: we are convinced that human life is not doomed to self destruction, but can exist in respect and harmony with nature. By forging good relationships with each other and with nature, we enhance our capacity for peace and transformation. Avoiding dangerous climate change is still possible if we accept the required fundamental shift away from a carbon-centered economy, unsustainable consumption and infinite economic growth and if we promote the phasing-out of fossil fuels by the middle of the century.

Therefore: COP21 is the right time to initiate an unprecedented individual and structural transformation.

Our religious convictions and traditions point to the relevance of theology for informing new models of development with social and ecological justice. Aware that governments and political agreements alone are not sufficient for the immense challenges ahead – our faith communities can provide solid grounding, moral support, ethical education and value-based sustainable development models which are needed for the global transformation process. As representatives of the majority of the global population who live with religious affiliations and values, we will not only hold leaders to account, but will also support politicians working towards an ambitious global climate agreement in Paris and beyond.

Therefore: COP21 is the right moment for real and visionary leadership.

We call for a fair, ambitious and binding global deal applicable to all countries:

A long-term goal to phase out greenhouse gas emissions and phase in 100% renewable energy by the middle of the century in order to stay below 1.5/2°C of warming above pre-industrial levels.

The firm commitment of all states to constantly improve their nationally determined climate action, in accordance with the Rio principles.

A rules based system, applicable to all, ensuring transparency, accountability, and a strong review and scaling up of climate action at least every five years.

A climate resilience goal to ensure adequate support to those countries and people being threatened by climate risks and losses. This would strengthen their resilience and adaptive capacity to the impact of climate change (accompanying the extension and intensification of the work of the Warsaw International Mechanism).

The provision of necessary financial support, technology transfer and capacity building, with a reliable pathway ensuring the mobilization of at least $100 billion of international climate finance. This must be provided every year to developing countries, in particular the most vulnerable countries like small developing island states and least developed countries to support low carbon and climate resilient development.

We call on all governments, and in particular the G20, all OECD members, high income countries and other major emitters:

to commit to nationally binding, ambitious short term emission reduction targets.

to commit to national climate risk management measures.

to commit to the provision of bold support to those countries and people who have less resources and capacity, starting with the most vulnerable.

Climate action must not be limited to governments alone. It is the responsibility of all of us to share the efforts. We as faith and spiritual leaders commit to:

Follow the example set by faith based communities who are joining the global pilgrimage for climate justice2 and those participating in regular acts of fasting for climate justice.3

Be responsible for the Earth, our common home, in our lives as individuals and in our faith communities.

Look at our consumption patterns and move towards sustainable practices and lifestyles, assessing the carbon footprints of our organizations and institutions as well as means to reduce them, explore and implement zero carbon strategies, and where appropriate, divest from fossil fuels.

Assess climate risks affecting our communities, prepare for the prevention and reduction of these risks, encouraging the communities to set climate resilience targets by 2025 and take the actions needed to adapt to the impact of climate change.

Undertake a constant effort to raise climate awareness within our communities, as an expression of our care for the Earth, deepening our understanding of the interconnectedness of human beings and nature, building capacity, and advocating for climate justice with our governments.

Stuart McMillan, President of the Uniting Church in Australia

For the full list of signatories -->

1 See Statement from the Interfaith Summit in New York, 21-22 September 2014, by the World Council of Churches Geneva and Religions for Peace, New York: pilgrims-for-climate-justice-plan-to-impact-cop-21-in-paris?set_language=en 3