Spiritual Leaders Deliver Interfaith Climate Declaration at COP23
Personal Commitment and Invitation to UN Climate Conference:
“Walk Gently on Earth”
Bonn, 10 November 2017. Scores of religious leaders and people of diverse faiths and spiritualities on bicycles, some wearing traditional religious clothing, delivered a multi-faith statement to the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP23), pledging to adopt sustainable behaviours themselves and calling on their followers and world leaders to do the same. The delivery also marked the launch of a new international, multi-faith sustainable lifestyles initiative.
Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California was among faith leaders carrying the message to the UN meeting on bikes, symbolizing a commitment to sustainable transport. “By changing our own lifestyles, the lifestyles of our congregants, and the consumption habits of our congregations, we can help make good on our commitment to the Paris Agreement,” he says. “For us, it’s a way to state loudly and clearly: We’re still in.”
The COP23 Interfaith Climate Statement on Sustainable Lifestyle, entitled Walk Gently on Earth, represents a shared assertion by religious leaders globally that widespread sustainable behaviour change is required if global temperature rise is to meet the targets established by the Paris Climate Agreement.
“Together we are coming to you with an invitation to embark on a journey towards compassionate simplicity for the sake of the climate, the human family and the community of life,” the statement says. The signatories pledged to reduce home energy use, adopt plant-based diets, and use cleaner modes of transportation, behaviours which scientists say make the greatest contribution to household greenhouse gas emissions in many countries.
The statement marks the launch of a global Multi-Faith Sustainable Living Initiative, a campaign launched at a day-long symposium in Bonn November 9th. The livestreamed conference addressed the challenges and opportunities on how to best foster sustainable lifestyles. Partners in the Initiative include leading Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Interfaith and Unitarian organizations.
Following events in Bonn, a community of multi-faith partners will work with spiritual leaders and people of faith worldwide to secure formal commitments to a sustainable lifestyle. “These commitments will accelerate a growing multi-faith sustainable living movement,” says Imam Saffet Catovic, Senior Advisor for GreenFaith, the organization coordinating the initiative. “The commitments will be announced at a global weekend of commitment in 2018 through thousands of grassroots events at spiritual and religious centers around the world,” he says.
Groups partnering on the Multi-Faith Sustainable Living Initiative include the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, The Bhumi Project, CIDSE, Franciscan Action Network, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Global Muslim Climate Network, GreenFaith, Hazon, Islamic Society of North America, One Earth Sangha, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quaker), Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the World Evangelical Alliance, and the World Council of Churches.
COP32 Inter-Faith Climate Statement
“Walk on Earth Gently”
A Multi-Faith invitation to Sustainable Lifestyles
To all members of the human family and to leaders gathered at COP23:
We extend our warm greetings. We represent the world’s family of spiritualities, faiths and religions who share a profound gratitude for our precious planet.
Earth is a blessing. She supports life and is the basis of all our economies. She conveys beauty and evokes our recognition of something greater than ourselves. She is our temple, our mosque, our sanctuary, our cathedral. Our home.
Our actions now threaten the delicate balance of life on Earth, with climate change posing a most grave danger. Record numbers of severe storms, droughts, fires, and related catastrophes leave trauma and grief in their wake. Recent months have witnessed the tragedy of such occurrences in the Caribbean, the US, and India. We shudder over the enormity of this suffering and over what more lies ahead.
For thousands of years, our traditions have taught us to care for Earth. This responsibility has become urgent in recent decades. Our misuse of Earth’s generosity, while improving conditions for many, is not improving them for all and is fraying the web of life. The most vulnerable among us, those least responsible for this global threat, suffer the impacts of a warming climate unfairly and unjustly.
We have begun to respond, raising consciousness and starting to consume more sustainably. We have implored leaders to act. We have studied, prayed and petitioned, advocated, marched and mobilized. We have awakened to the urgent challenge and begun to change our ways.
However, we are at a crossroads. The Paris Agreement affirmed limiting temperature rise to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to a far safer 1.5°C limit. Our friends from Fiji and small island states, understanding the stakes and underscoring the science, have told us “1.5 to stay alive.” Yet we are currently headed for warming of 3°C or more, perilously beyond this limit.
This challenge is both dire and urgent. It calls for us to act.
As religious and spiritual leaders, we are committing to make changes in our own lives, and to support the members of our communities in doing the same. Together, we come to you with an invitation to embark on a journey towards compassionate simplicity for the sake of the climate, the human family, and the community of life.
For many of us, changes in three areas make the greatest impact: dramatically reducing emissions from our home energy use, adopting a plant-based diet and reducing food waste, and minimizing automobile and air travel. Because of the gravity of our situation, substantial and long-term changes in these areas are indispensable if we are to reach a 1.5°C future, particularly for those of us in communities whose carbon footprints exceed sustainable levels. We pledge our commitment to such change.
Through this collective effort, we look forward to creating a global community of conscience and practice in which we learn to put belief into action in relation to our own lifestyles. Our spiritual and faith communities will give us hope and companions for this journey. We will share ideas, materials, and stories of struggle and success. Our practices of mindfulness, spiritual discipline and prayer will enable us to grow. These ancient teachings and practices, and our renewed commitments and willingness to strive, will help us build pathways towards a sustainable future.
We wish to be clear that we understand that systemic change is required to solve this crisis. We will continue to advocate for the policies that are so urgently needed. However, we also believe that individual commitments and behaviors are as important in addressing climate change as they are in addressing poverty, racism, and other grave social ills. And we know that our spiritualities and traditions offer wisdom about finding happiness in a purposeful life, family and friendships, not in an overabundance of things. The world needs such wisdom; it is our privilege both to share and to seek to embody it.
We invite you to join the many others willing to walk this path by adding your name to this document, and by preparing to make commitments in the three areas named above. The diverse groups coming together in this moment will reach out to invite you to become involved in a programme of support and action which will take shape over the coming year. Let us pray and hope we can come together in love for each other, those who suffer from climate change, future generations, and planet Earth.
Let us commit to walk gently on Earth.
Quotes from religious and spiritual leaders on COP23 Interfaith Climate Statement
Addressing climate change by reducing our carbon footprint is a moral responsibility as Khualfa al-ard – caretakers, stewards, and guardians of the earth. We must care for all of creation. Reshaping our patterns of consumption and conservation not only help preserve the planet for us and our future generations, but also improve overall public health and economic prosperity, particularly for the vulnerable amongst us who are most severely impacted by climate change. Dr. Azhar Azeez, President, Islamic Society of North America
As Muslims we are enjoined to be the custodians of God on this earth. We must walk softly thereupon and do no harm. This ethic is desperately needed if we are to help avert a looming climate disaster. -- Imam Zaid Shakir, Co-founder, Zaytuna College, Berkeley, CA
God the creator has given us this world as our common home, together with all that are created and living here. We have to walk on the land and sail at the sea with care and deep respect for what is given. To love God and to love our neighbor means that we also love the creation of God. -- Rev Dr. Olav Fykse-Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches
Keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius will take people of all faiths and all nations working together as quickly as possible. In Laudato Si' Pope Francis said, "All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation. " That is why Catholics, through the Global Catholic Climate Movement, have signed this interfaith statement committing to adopting a sustainable lifestyle. We stand with our brothers and sisters of all faiths to protect creation the poor and vulnerable. -- Bishop Allwyn D'Silva Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Bombay
Climate change isn't a side issue for Catholics. It’s one of the most important things we can do to live out our faith. It's a way to protect the poor and care for the gifts God has given us. With sisters and brothers from all faith backgrounds standing beside us, we have good cause for hope. Climate solutions are within our grasp. -- Tomas Insua, Executive Director, Global Catholic Climate Movement
Evangelicals responding to the biblical call to care for creation want to know how they can live joyful, faith-consistent lives that care for God’s gift of creation. In addition to advocating for necessary large scale solutions to tackle climate change— which is the greatest creation care challenge of our generation, our individual lifestyle choices, when scaled up can make a big difference. -- Dr. Chris Elisara, Director World Evangelical Creation Care Task Force.
In the Hindu tradition we believe the world is one family. That world includes not only human beings but also all living beings, all of Mother Nature and Mother Earth. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to live in a way that is sustainable for all beings with whom we share this planet, today and for all future generations. To abuse it, neglect it, or destroy it, is sacrilege. -- Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, President Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
We cannot be bystanders when our planet is in such danger; we belong to this living web and are called to consciously engage. While that engagement needs to address the larger political and economic systems that can wreak such havoc, it also needs to include our daily relationships with each other and the earth. Can our daily choices in consuming and sharing our own resources reflect the truth that we are a part of this precious world and it needs our care? -- Tara Brach, Buddhist author, teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC
Last updated 15 November 2017