Tackling climate change a 'moral imperative, say UK faith leaders

By staff writers
October 30, 2009

Leaders from the largest faith communities, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, have joined representatives of faith based organisations across the UK to call for “urgent measures” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the run-up to Copenhagen.

The meeting at Lambeth Palace included representatives of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Baha'i, Jain and Zoroastrian communities.

A statement issued by the faiths yesterday says catastrophic climate change poses a "very real threat to the world's poor and to our fragile creation".

The representatives say the rich world is primarily responsible for the emissions which cause climate change, and urge the G20 governments to fight for an agreement which will rapidly end global reliance on fossil fuels and keep temperature rises to 2C to avoid the worst impacts of a warming world.

"We recognise unequivocally that there is a moral imperative to tackle the causes of global warming", the statement declares.

The statement has been welcomed by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The Secretary of State, Ed Miliband said: "Tackling climate change is a cause that unites people of all faiths. Each generation holds the planet in trust for the next and to fulfil our obligations to these future generations, we must succeed in getting a fair and ambitious agreement. We need the voice of all the world's religions in the coming weeks as we approach the Copenhagen summit."

Dr Williams said: "This is an important meeting - the first of its kind in the UK. We all have to do more to face the challenges of climate change. Faith communities have a crucial role to play. That was highlighted today as were some of the things already being done. We must do our bit and encourage others to do theirs. Together we can and we will make a difference".

The full statement is as follows:

As leaders and representatives of faith communities and faith-based organisations in the UK we wish to highlight the very real threat to the world's poor, and to our fragile creation, from the threat of catastrophic climate change. The developed world is primarily responsible for the already visible effects of global heating. Justice requires that we now take responsibility for slowing the rise in global temperature. We call upon UK negotiators at Copenhagen, and the other nations of the G20 in particular, to fight for a deal which speedily ends unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels and puts in place urgent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that [the] global temperature rise may be kept within two degrees centigrade.

We recognise unequivocally that there is a moral imperative to tackle the causes of global warming. This is reinforced by the reality that it is the poor and vulnerable who are most profoundly affected by the environmental impact of climate change - especially drought, floods, water shortages and rise in sea levels. Faith communities have a crucial role to play in pressing for changes in behaviour at every level of society and in every economic sector. We all have a responsibility to learn how to live and develop sustainably in a world of finite resources.
This responsibility comes into sharp focus today with less than 40 days before representatives of governments from across the world meet to agree a deal on climate change.

Building on the examples of local and international action to live and to work together sustainably which have been highlighted in our meeting today we pledge to:

· Reach out to our communities, both in the UK and internationally, in the coming weeks to raise awareness of the real potential for catastrophic climate change and to increase public support for an ambitious, fair and effective deal at Copenhagen;

· Continue to share best practice and redouble our efforts to reduce emissions that result from our institutional and individual activities;

· Work with our partners, our sister churches and communities internationally to mitigate the effects of climate change on the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the developing world; and to press governments to support that effort.

To help to achieve these ends we agree to use today's meeting as the first step in an ongoing process of collaboration. We believe our communities can be key agents of change and urge the Government wherever possible to support our efforts to build capacity and commitment to reduce carbon emissions, raise awareness and promote sustainable practice.

(29 October 2009)

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