The fight against climate change has been marked by broken promises and missed opportunities, say three European bishops in a letter to political leaders to mark the opening of UN-led talks on the Indonesian island of Bali this week.
"Every person on earth, both now and in the future, has the same right to use its natural resources in a sustainable manner," state the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the Church of England, Archbishop Anders Wejryd of the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, and Bishop Wolfgang Huber, leader of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).
A major aim of the Bali talks is to start negotiations on replacing the Kyoto Protocol, which spells out targets for reducing emissions of the gases that lead to climate change. The accord expires in 2012.
"Securing a just and equitable post-2012 Treaty depends on governments progressing beyond notions of justice that reflect their own national interests to one that provides for the global common good," the three church leaders state in their letter made public by the EKD on 3 December.
Cautious optimism that the fight against climate change could be won has been tempered by an awareness that past climate negotiations have been characterised "by a legacy of broken promises and missed opportunities", they say.
"Substantially reducing global emissions of greenhouse gasses will not avoid the serious impacts of climate change already experienced by many of the world’s most vulnerable communities," they add. "Climate change is not just about addressing environmental degradation; it is also about fighting poverty and providing for human security."
The three clerics say that climate change, if left unaddressed, will further threaten the UN Millennium Development Goals to reduce world poverty and enhance living conditions by 2015.
The letter from the three church leaders has been sent to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who holds the presidency of the European Union, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of Germany, Britain and Sweden.
Australia was applauded at the talks in Bali on 3 December after it agreed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the United States as the only developed nation outside the accord.
[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.]