World’s religions plead for action on climate change at UN talks in Bangkok

September 30, 2009
By Denis D. Gray
Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand - Adherents of the world's major religions urged political leaders, businessmen and individuals Wednesday to renounce short-term gains and greed, telling a U.N. climate conference in Bangkok that reversing global warming is a moral duty.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization warned that climate change could cut food production 21 per cent by 2050 in poor countries, and the Asian Development Bank predicted that global warming could lead to a surge of migration into the region's already crowded cities.

"The food and energy security of every Asian is threatened by climate change, but it's the poor - and especially poor women - who are most vulnerable and most likely to migrate as a consequence," the ADB Vice president Ursula Schaefer Preuss said in a statement.

Negotiators from around the world at the two-week conference are working on a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. The pact is meant to be completed for a major climate forum in Copenhagen in December, but a deal is far from certain.

Religious leaders chastised governments for placing national advantage ahead of preserving the human species and negotiators for lacking a sense of urgency.

"We are one humanity with a single fate," said Stuart Scott, director of the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change project. The declaration, endorsed by prominent adherents of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism, was handed to Yvo de Boer, the U.N. climate chief.

"Stewardship and reverence for creation are central tenants of all faiths on Earth," the declaration said.

For months, negotiations have been deadlocked, with poorer nations frustrated by industrialized countries' refusal to commit to sufficiently deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions or provide billions of dollars to help them adapt to climate change.

"Shame on us. We are creating a hell on earth for our children," said Myint Thein, a senior Muslim cleric from Myanmar. "We must tell our leaders that life is more important than wealth."

Finance is among the most contentious issues, with a grouping of developing nations - the G-77 and China - saying there will be no deal without climate assistance. They called Wednesday for roughly $2 trillion a year from rich countries, more than double what they have included in the current negotiating text.

Proposed mechanisms to generate funding include everything from tapping the carbon markets to taxing aviation and maritime fuels.

"I can't see a successful conclusion of Copenhagen without financing and the transfer of technology," G-77 and China Chairman Lumumba Di-Aping told reporters. "It is these two conditions that are effectively the founding pillars. We can build the rest."

But the European Commission's environment director general said financing would not be forthcoming without clear actions from poor countries to rein in their skyrocketing emissions.

"If there is no action, there will be no finance," Artur Runge-Metger said.

The European Commission has estimated that $146 billion annually will be needed in climate financing by 2020, and it has called for $32.3 billion to $73.3 billion of that to come from public funds. The remainder would come from money generated from the carbon markets.