November 8, 2009
Ecumenical News International
Leaders of nine major faiths have presented 60 ideas to lessen carbon emissions to the United Nations after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon singled out the religious community as key in fighting climate change - writes Trevor Grundy.
The Norwegian Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Development Plan in charge of development, Olov Kjoerven, on 4 November called climate change "the greatest threat that humanity has ever been up against".
He was speaking at an event organized by the Quakers in London. This followed a three-day meeting at Windsor Castle outside the British capital on how faith leaders can help change the environment. There Ban spoke, saying the world's major faiths occupy a "unique position" in future discussion on the fate of the planet.
Kjoerven noted, "Within the next few decades, larger and larger portions of the earth could be turned into uninhabitable areas. It is time for all of us and for politicians, global leaders, religious leaders, to step up to the plate and deliver a deal."
Welcoming the ideas put forward during the 2-4 November conference, the UNDP representative said that the U.N. has worked at climate change for the last 20 years. "We haven't made much progress quite frankly. Clearly there is something missing in terms of the efforts we have made so far," Kjoerven said.
That was why, he explained, the UNDP approached the Alliance of Religions and Conservation to help arrange a conference on the eve of the 7 to 18 December summit in Copenhagen.
Kjoerven declared: "The faiths have reached beyond any other constituencies. The day when the faiths through their institutions and investment portfolios decide to go from high carbon to low as a matter of principle will make an enormous difference and send a strong signal through the entire market about the way to go into the future."
ARC's secretary general, Martin Palmer, told Ecumenical News International that the conference had been better than anything he had expected.
"We knew that we were going to have 31 major commitments, such as the Church of England cutting back its energy use by 40 percent by 2015, or the Muslims 'greening' the Hajj or Jews cutting meat consumption in their community by 2015," Palmer told ENI. "Then, on the last day, there were 30 more commitments," Palmer enthused.
Tarek Wafik, Secretary General of the Forum of Dialogue for Partnership, received strong applause after telling how the entire Islamic world has accepted the action plan which will involve educating an estimated three million pilgrims who go to Mecca every year about the need to lighten their carbon footsteps.
"This," said Wafik, "could be an intensely educational process that merges with a great spiritual experience."
The need to have religious leadership in a fight against global warming was underlined by the Rev. Sally Bingham, the San Francisco-based leader of the U.S. Interfaith Power and Light campaign.
"Up until recently," Bingham said," the religious community had abdicated its responsibility to care for creation." Bingham told the audience at Friends House in London, "I believe that clergy talking abut environmental stewardship from the pulpit will have more influence than will scientists or a politician."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]