Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 17, Number 2 --- 15 February 2015
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 13 March 2015
Secretariat Email: email@example.com General Secretary Emily Firth
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
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From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters
This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on environment, climate change and sustainability. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Programme for IEF conference now available
The 19th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum will be held in association with the international conference of the Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL) at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, on 10-11 March 2015. For IEF members, the registration fee will be 50 euros instead of 450 euros. Registration is still possible, for those organizing their own travel and accommodation, through the PERL website: http://eng.hihm.no/responsible-living or directly at https://www.deltager.no/perl_2015_international_conference.
The theme of the PERL International Conference is "A Decade of Responsible Living: Preparing, Engaging, Responding and Learning". The conference programme can be downloaded at http://eng.hihm.no/project-sites/responsible-living/conference-paris-20….
The IEF is organizing a special symposium on ethical transformation and education for service, and IEF members are also co-authors on a research paper about values-based indicators in education and the toolkits that IEF has contributed to developing. The IEF General Assembly will also be held just at the end of the conference on the afternoon of 11 March. The abstracts of the IEF contributions follow.
Ethical Transformation and Education for Service
at the Community and Institutional Levels
IEF Symposium, Tuesday 10 March, 14:00-16:00
A Multi-level Approach to Ethics, Service and Responsible Living
Arthur Lyon Dahl (International Environment Forum)
From a systems perspective, it is obvious that responsible and sustainable living cannot be achieved by each of us acting alone. Individuals are part of communities that can either reinforce or impede sustainable actions. Learning the pleasure that comes from serving others in the community can provide positive reinforcement and build hope in the future. Just as an ethical approach can motivate individuals to live more responsibly and devote their lives to service to society, so it is important to unite communities around a shared vision of ethical sustainability values.
Many of today's sustainability challenges come from the irresponsible behavior of governments, businesses and other institutions, that are failing to provide a values-base for sustainable lifestyles. While governments are supposed to serve their citizens and often adopt lofty goals, the lack of ethical principles can easily lead them in other more self-serving directions. Businesses also consider too often that their ends of growth and profitability justify any means; if they are to contribute to a sustainable society and become socially and environmentally responsible, they also need to incorporate ethical principles and service to society into their institutional framework. If there is coherence between ethics and values at the individual, community and institutional levels, action at all these levels can become mutually reinforcing.
An Evidence-Based Design Template for Effective Values and Behaviour Change Interventions (BCI)
Ismael Velasco (Adora Foundation and IEF)
In the context of the Millennium Development Goals UNESCO identified the “knowledge-action gap” as a key challenge, where understanding what needs to be done is not followed by concomitant action. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as defined by the United Nations aims to “encourage changes in behavior that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations.” Yet even after 20 years evidence-based interventions that measurably achieve this are rare.
What, then, are key design elements which, incorporated into a purposive educational intervention, can generate positive and sustained values and behavioural change? This is the question this presentation will seek to answer. A generic design template that others can apply for successful Behaviour Change Interventions will be proposed, with moderating human and institutional factors. This template has been “reverse engineered” from a research-established example of “best practice”, delivering demonstrable values and behaviour change in a significant number and proportion of participants, replicated across over 100 countries and diverse social and institutional contexts.
Valuing and Evaluating Leadership that Matters
Javier Gonzales Iwanciw (Nur University and IEF), Onno Vinkhuyzen (IEF), Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (Wageningen University and IEF) and Fabiana Mendez Raya (Nur University and IEF)
Transforming society towards SCP requires more from leadership than what current leadership models provide due to the complexity of the enterprise and the value dimensions involved. Concepts and frameworks such as complexity, collaborative, ecological, and sustainability leadership have been proposed at the level of theory. In parallel many institutions provide leadership training aiming to both motivate and enable students to become leaders for sustainability. Many of them are however not sufficiently comprehensive and often do not cover the ‘inner’ value dimensions essential to generate the necessary vision, understanding and motivation, or they lack tools to evaluate the impact on the value dimensions.
In this paper we seek to bridge this gap by adapting the indicator framework developed within the We Value project (Brighton University) to fit the training in the Moral Leadership Framework (MLF) developed at Nur University in Bolivia. This leadership model has the potential to support individual and collective transformational change amongst others because it addresses the value dimensions comprehensively. We first briefly describe the MLF and the We Value approach to indicators and then proceed to describe how the We Value indicators can be adapted to the MLF – and where they need to be expanded. This is followed by analyzing a first pilot test of the indicators on students (midcareer professionals) who receive 80 (semester hours) training in the MLF at Nur University. A concluding section discusses the learnings from the application and directions for further work.
Responsible Institutions – Responsible Individuals?
Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (Wageningen University and IEF)
The importance of personal choice and commitment for responsible living in order to transform societies towards more just and sustainable ones is undeniable. It is as undeniable that unless individuals bring those responsible choices with them into their institutional setting the possibilities for individuals to live responsibly will be severely constrained; the physical, social, educational etc. infrastructure required will not be created.
In this paper I focus on the role of institutions in enabling responsible living by proposing the way institutions relate to international norms. The international community of states have a good track record of agreeing on setting goals for what a ‘Future We Want’ should be like and formulating obligations, albeit often vague, for what states should do to contribute to such a future. Currently only states are formally obliged to comply with international law in its different forms. In a situation when states do not take their responsibility for achieving these visions sufficiently seriously and when states are not able to achieve them without serious commitment from other institutional actors and individual citizens, it is time to reconsider what responsibility institutions beyond states have towards international norms, including in the domain of sustainability and justice. I will do three things in the paper: firstly in more detail outline the rationale for non-state institutional actors to take on responsibility towards implementing international norms; secondly review relevant normative theories for allocating responsibility in a governance system; and thirdly identify some practical strategies for how to facilitate such responsibility.
The research paper being presented concerns the toolkits for values-based education prepared under the supervision of the PERL Workgroup led by Arthur Dahl, in collaboration with the research team at the University of Brighton behind the values-based indicators project.
“Discovering What Matters”: Designing a values-centred toolkit for Education for Sustainable and Responsible Living (EfSRL) in secondary schools
Gemma Burford, Elona Hoover, Arthur Dahl & Marie K. Harder (University of Brighton)
Research has shown that disseminating knowledge about sustainability issues is rarely enough, in itself, to motivate long-term behaviour change. Focusing on global problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty often serves to increase people’s sense of despair and helplessness, and may result in apathy rather than positive action. An alternative approach, however, is to help people to reflect on what is important to them in life – their core values – and to envision the type of future that they want on the basis of those values. This approach has already been found useful for closing ‘value-action gaps’ in organisations promoting non-formal education for sustainability.
The first section of this presentation will briefly describe the collaborative research project with civil society organisations, funded by the EU FP7 programme, which constituted the starting point for PERL Workgroup 1. The main section then reports on the work carried out by Workgroup 1 and affiliates to develop a values-centred toolkit for secondary schools. We illustrate how different qualitative sources were used to explore the values underpinning Education for Sustainable and Responsible Living (EfSRL) and how they might be enacted in schools. We then describe the process of translating these insights into a set of engaging, participatory and fun activities - the “Discovering What Matters” toolkit. Finally, we relate some of our experiences of capacity-building with prototypes of the toolkit in different schools, and share a vision for the future.
Interfaith Online Course on Climate Change
The Wilmette Institute will offer an 8-week online course on climate change, from March 1 - April 26, 2015 The course explores the basic science of climate change and provides an understanding of how climate disruption impacts us today and will continue to affect us in the future. We will explore ethical questions related to climate change and address them in the context of the spiritual teachings of the world’s religions, especially those of the Baha’i Faith. Some readings will help us make enlightened decisions for our personal and community lives that are consistent with our spiritual and ethical values. For those interested in a more thorough study of climate change and its spiritual dimensions or who are interested in specific aspects of it, the course offers numerous optional resources.
The Wilmette Institute is an online Baha’i Learning Center. Its courses are open to members of all religions. For more information or to register, please, visit: http://www.cvent.com/events/climate-change/event-summary-3d303dccbed44d…
Faculty: Christine Muller, Gary Colliver, Arthur Lyon Dahl, Carole Flood
• What is the threat of climate change?
• What are its implications for the economy, the alleviation of poverty, and efforts to establish world peace?
• What are the relevant ethical and spiritual teachings to deal with the crisis?
• How can we personally help to solve the crisis?
• How can we offer the Baha'i principles in public discourse about this issue?
• How do we deal with the politicization of this crucial issue for the future of humanity?
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States has asked American Baha'is to get involved in a "preach in" about climate change on February 13-15. This course is a perfect opportunity to learn more about climate change, so you can be more involved and better informed in the future.
Fees: $100 for individuals; $80 for pioneers, seniors, and students Groups: $150 for the first member, $30 each additional member ($180 for 2, $210 for 3, etc.)
Presentation for Geneva Corporate Social Responsibility Meetup
On 10 February, Arthur Dahl addressed the Geneva CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Meetup at the Hotel Metropole in Geneva, Switzerland, on the topic "The impact of climate change on the global economy". As the Meetup reported: "It was enriching to have such an experienced environmental accountant as Arthur Dahl addressing the most pressing issues that are changing our world, and at an ever-increasing pace. As escalating disastrous scenarios already bring about emerging new economic models and activities, the question becomes how far destruction needs to go, before mitigating alternative business practices, technology solutions and consumer habits will go mainstream. The road-map for restoration of damage and prevention of the worst is up to all those engaged in new environmentally adapted activities and business. On the investor side the pressing question will be: Which of the leading corporations will be able to embrace this change as new business opportunity and which will be left behind?"
Presentation: “Seeding a New Culture”
By author and sustainability expert, Paul Hanley
On Sunday, 1 February 2015, Paul Hanley, author of the insightful new book, Eleven, presented a webinar lecture in Washington, D.C., USA, hosted by the U.S. Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs. Drawing on the material in his book, Mr. Hanley discussed how humanity and the world will adjust to support 11 billion people by the end of this century and how we can and are beginning to cure the social and environmental ills currently plaguing humanity and nature. As part of his talk, Mr. Hanley emphasized a solution rooted in local education and capacity-building processes practiced in the Bahá’í community. A recording of the talk with slides is available at https://franciscanaction.adobeconnect.com/p1bjncqk0hr/. More than 100 individuals took part in the event and feedback was very positive.
Sponsoring Organization: U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs, http://publicaffairs.bahai.us/
According to medium U.N. projections, by the end of this century, 11 billion people will populate the planet. Increasing the population by 50% will greatly exacerbate current social and environmental problems facing humanity and force everyone to change everything (or accept a halting and retreat, rather than a further advance of civilization). Paul Hanley’s book, “11,” discusses the need for a major shift in approach to agriculture, a move away from our materialistic culture, and a transformation in individual and collective mindset. Specifically, he addresses the need for an alternative to traditional resource intensive agriculture, the culture of consumerism, and the individualist competitive mindset. As alternatives, Hanley proposes involvement in service and spiritual activities in one’s local community, grassroots re-greening projects, and an ethically enlightened mindset centered on the virtues of unity, justice, equity, and service.
To successfully transition from our current culture, agriculture, and mindsets to sustainable alternatives, Hanley proposes a process-based ethical education model that can be simultaneously implemented at the levels of the individual, community and institution. He discusses one such model, the Ruhi model, which is currently being used in over 10,000 communities around the world. According to Hanley, using a process-based approach means that we do not have to agree on reality or an ideal reality to move forward. Instead, we can consult as communities: assess our local realities, envision alternatives, act to achieve the alternatives, reflect on the results, and repeat.
Hanley argues that by using a process-based approach to continuously search for truth and systematically act to improve our social and spiritual conditions, we will seed a new culture and realize eventually an ever-advancing civilization. However, given the urgent and global nature of our current social and environmental crises, Hanley also asserts that change at the individual and community level will not be enough. Institutions will need to assemble local learning at the regional, national, and international levels and reflect effective approaches back to the local level to catalyze transformation.
Paul Hanley has published 1500 articles on the environment, sustainable development, agriculture, and other topics. He is editor and co-author of Earthcare: Ecological Agriculture in Saskatchewan (Earthcare 1980) and The Spirit of Agriculture (George Ronald 2005). Paul is a recipient of the Canadian Environment Award and the Meewasin Conservation Award. He has been environment columnist with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix since 1989. Paul lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in Canada, with his wife and the youngest of three sons--plus two dogs. For more information, blogs posts and events go to www.elevenbillionpeople.com>
See our review of the book "11" at https://iefworld.org/node/708
ICSU and ISSC release “Review of Targets for the Sustainable Development Goals: The Science Perspective”
The International Council for Science, in partnership with the International Social Science Council, released a new report today which provides an independent review of the 169 targets under the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are set to be approved at the General Assembly of the UN in September.
Bringing together the work of over 40 leading researchers from across the natural and social sciences, the report is being released ahead of a major meeting at the UN in New York from 17-20 February where negotiators in the Open Working Group will discuss an over-arching declaration for the proposed framework, a “goal of the goals”.
The authors find that the SDGs offer a "major improvement" over their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, of the 169 targets beneath the 17 draft goals, just 29% are well defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, while 54% need more work and 17% are weak or non-essential. Many of the targets suffer from a lack of integration, some repetition and rely too much on vague, qualitative language rather than hard, measurable, time-bound, quantitative targets, the report finds.
Authors are also concerned the goals are presented in ‘silos.’ The goals address challenges such as climate, food security and health in isolation from one another. Without interlinking there is a danger of conflict between different goals, most notably trade-offs between overcoming poverty and moving towards sustainability. Action to meet one target could have unintended consequences on others if they are pursued separately.
Finally, the report highlights the need for an ‘end-goal’ to provide a big picture vision for the SDGs. “The ‘ultimate end’ of the SDGs in combination is not clear, nor is how the proposed goals and targets would contribute to achieve that ultimate end,” write the authors. They recommend that this meta-goal be “a prosperous, high quality of life that is equitably shared and sustained.”
Download the full report (PDF) and the accompanying supplement “ Sustainable Development Goals and Targets” (PDF) which lists all 17 goals and 169 targets. There is also a blog post on our Road to Paris blog which discusses the key finding of the report and includes interviews with the authors.
Lessons learned from research on how 17 nations are considering or
ignoring ethics and justice in formulating climate policies
A project of Widener University School of Law and Auckland University School of Architecture and Planning has examined how 17 nations have actually considered or ignored ethics and justice in formulating national climate change commitments.
These reports can be found either in a free book downloadable on the project’s website, nationalclimatejustice.org or posted directly on the website. The website also includes a link to 28 lessons learned and recommendations derived from these lessons learned under the tab " lessons learned" on the website. The project managers believe that these lessons and recommendations are vital to improving national consideration of ethics and justice in setting climate policies.
Thus the website provides access to completed reports on the extent to which nations have considered justice for the following countries: Australia, Bolivia, Canada, China, Fiji, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Uganda, and the United States of America. The project is looking for additional researchers for other countries who will agree to answer 10 questions about how a nation has considered or ignored ethics and justice in formulating their national climate policies. Instructions for researchers who would be willing to complete the research for other countries are also available on http://nationalclimatejustice.org .
The report on the United States found on the website contains a new analysis of the extent to which the United States took ethics and justice into account when President Obama committed to new emissions reductions in its announcement with China in November./p>
The project actively seeks comments on these reports. As new commitments are expected to made by the end of March to the UNFCCC under the Lima Call To Action which may include for the first time information on the adequacy and fairness of thee emissions targets, the project hopes to update these reports as new commitments are made.
Donald A. Brown, Scholar In Residence and Professor
Sustainability Ethics and Law, Widener University School of Law, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Part-Time Professor, Nanjing Univ of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China.
http://ssrn.com/author=1331896 (papers published on SSRN)
Climate Change Ethics: Navigating the Perfect Moral Storm; http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415625722/
Indicators and a Monitoring Framework for Sustainable Development Goals:
Launching a data revolution for the SDGs
A report by the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network
Revised working draft for consultation, 16 January 2015
Download the report (160 p.) at: http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/150116-Indicators-and-a-Mo…
As the Sustainable Development Goals and targets go through governmental review and approval this year, one area of unfinished business is to identify the indicators that will be used to measure progress towards the ambitious goals for 2030. The SDSN has taken up the challenge, and its report proposes 100 global indicators for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be calculated for all countries, as well as 141 complementary national indicators to be used on an optional basis depending on the national situation and priorities. All the global indicators are discussed in detail for methodology, data availability, and responsible organizations. The aim is to provide the scientific backing for decisions governments will take this year to adopt the SDGs, to be ready to start implementation in 2016 of at least a partial set of indicators ready for use. The revised working draft was open for two weeks for expert comments, and IEF submitted a short version of its analysis below.
An indicator process, especially one as complex as that required for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is quite technical and not easily accessible to the general public. Yet, as the International Environment Forum has already pointed out in comments on the SG's Synthesis Report, the whole UN process is basically, and by necessity, top-down, setting an agenda but weak on implementation. It is necessary and highly desirable to have this global vision, but not sufficient. If it is not supported by a bottom-up process from the people most directly concerned, which is all of us, governments will not move, vested interests and inertia will slow or block progress, and we shall as usual do too little, to late. A much greater effort is needed, by the UN and all the partners in this process, to make this challenging and inspiring post-2015 agenda relevant to and accessible by people everywhere, to build public buy-in and ownership, and to motivate ordinary people to start applying at least the SG's six essential elements in their own neighbourhoods and communities without waiting for governments to act.
Indicators need to be part of this process (Dahl 2012). A review in 2008 of the use of environmental and sustainability indicators since 1992 (UNEP 2008) showed that complex national indicator systems were simplified over time into a few headline indicators for public use. This should be built into the SDGs indicators process, with the foundation of indicators as described in the SDSN report generating a much smaller number of indicators for public use. These would not have the same scientific rigour as the full set of SDG indicators and complementary national indicators, which serve their own purposes, but would communicate more effectively, much like the Human Development Index or the Ecological Footprint.
The report would be enriched by demonstrating different ways that the indicators can be used to demonstrate the interdependence of the SDGs. Annex 4: Cross-cutting issues in the indicator framework, does this for some major themes. The Secretary-General's Synthesis Report describes six essential elements that underlie and regroup the SDGs. It would therefore be highly relevant to add an annex to the SDSN report similarly regrouping the indicators in support of these six essential elements. These could then be the basis for a few headline indicators more accessible to both decision-makers and the public at large.
Extending this process further, a small selection of indicators should be identified that can be calculated and used at the local level in communities or neighbourhoods. This would provide a bridge between global SDGs and local goals, make indicators immediately relevant to local concerns and priorities, provide measures of progress that people can understand, and motivate action. Such indicators could be piloted by local authorities or by NGOs and citizen groups. They could include the proportion of poor in the community, a relevant health indicator, employment, GHG emissions, the state of local ecosystems, participation in governance, and transformative partnerships.
One important dimension of national sustainability, that is not captured in the indicators as presently designed, is the impact of nations beyond their borders as parts of an integrated world system. Wealthy nations have been outsourcing polluting activities and the damage associated with natural resources exploitation, and poor nations have suffered the damage while the benefits have largely been exported. Material flows accounts have been used to estimate this, and trade statistics are also available. Current accounts balances can also reflect how a country is doing on long-term financial sustainability. With some additions and adjustments in global and complementary national indicators (66 and 80 GHG emissions, 10.3 migration, 73 resource-based contracts, 12.3 chemical pollution, 78 decarbonization, 17.2 debt sustainability, 17.6 tariffs, 17.7 LCD exports), it should be possible to include in the SDG indicator set a few essential measures that would allow calculating a nation's economic, social and environmental footprint beyond its borders in the global system. This is an essential part of each nation's responsibility for global sustainable development.
Specific indicators of interest
Several indicators are of particular interest to IEF. Under the goal on education, there is complementary national indicator 4.1 [Percentage of girls and boys who acquire skills and values needed for global citizenship and sustainable development (national benchmarks to be developed) by the end of lower secondary] – to be developed. IEF has been involved in EU-funded research on values-based indicators of education for sustainable development (http://www.esdinds.eu/) and follow-up in applying these indicators in secondary schools through the Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL): http://eng.hihm.no/responsible-living. The first toolkits for teachers on measuring skills and values are available on the IEF web site and in press. This research could contribute to a methodology for preparing this new national indicator.
There is also complementary national indicator 8.9. [Indicator on implementation of 10-year framework of programs on sustainable consumption and production] - to be developed, which relates to our work on sustainable consumption and participation in networks like the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption, and PERL. SDSN also recognizes the problem of extremes of wealth, with Goal 10, indicator 67 [Indicator on inequality at top end of income distribution: GNI share of richest 10% or Palma Ratio], and the need for a complementary national indicator on migration: 10.3. [Indicator on migration] - to be developed, another subject on which IEF has contributed to the international discourse.
Under Goal 12, indicator 74 Global Food Loss Indicator [or other indicator to be developed to track the share of food lost or wasted in the value chain after harvest] acknowledges the need to reduce the third of food that is produced but never eaten, and complementary indicator 12.1. [Strategic environmental and social impact assessments required] - to be developed, calls for such assessments to be required everywhere. Among the environmental indicators are complementary indicator 15.3. Vitality Index of Traditional Environmental Knowledge, and 15.9. Living Planet Index. The issue of values is also touched on in the last global indicator under Goal 17: 100 Evaluative Wellbeing and Positive Mood Affect, to be developed by SDSN and the OECD.
Sustainable Development Solutions Network
Launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August 2012, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. It aims to accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated approaches to the interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting the world. The SDSN works closely with United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society.
Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 2012. Achievements and gaps in indicators for sustainability. Ecological Indicators, vol. 17, p. 14-19. June 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.04.032
UNEP. 2008. Overview of environmental assessment landscape at national level: State of state-of-the-environment reporting: Note by the Executive Director. UNEP/GC.25/INF/12/Add.1, 45 p. http://www.unep.org/gc/gcss-x/download.asp?ID=1015
Hong Kong religious leaders sign multi-faith statement calling on world governments to act now
Posted on Wednesday 28 January 2015 at 15:52 in India Blog by Sean Watkins
by Ciara Shannon, OurVoices Asia Coordinator
Hong Kong’s six main religions joined forces to sign a statement (see below) to urge world governments to come to a consensus on tackling climate change.
This marks the first interfaith statement by religious leaders of Asia to do so. The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders of Hong Kong includes: The Most Venerable Chi Wai, President of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association; His Eminence Cardinal John Tong Hon, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong; Master Leung Tak Wah, Chairman of the Hong Kong Daoist Association; Reverend Yuen Tin Yau, Chairperson of the Hong Kong Christian Council; Dr. Tong Yun Kai, President of the Confucian Academy; and Mr. Sat Che Sang Ibrahim, Chairman of the Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association.
“Currently, we are on the trajectory of emissions with potentially catastrophic consequences — threatening all of us and the natural world,” the statement says. The statement supports the scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and puts a focus on those most vulnerable of the world, saying it is our shared responsibility, not our difference, for our planet — to care for Earth as guardians of creation, so it continues to support not just ourselves, but the generations of life on Earth to come.
The statement also calls on governments to come to a global consensus on reducing emissions when United Nations climate talks resume in Paris at the end of the year.
“The religious leaders in Hong Kong are concerned about climate change and environmental protection. That is the spirit of all religions, and we do hope an agreement could be reached in the climate talks in Paris later this year,” said Chan Kim-kwong of the Christian Council.
This multifaith statement by Hong Kong’s faith leaders represents a landmark of Asia. It is important that faith leaders continue to raise awareness on the moral imperative of climate change in their communities and call for governments to act now. The statement from Hong Kong comes as Pope Francis prepares to publish an encyclical on Human Ecology due out early summer. He’s expected to deliver a strong signal on the moral, ethical, and responsible dimensions of climate action.
Many religious communities have released statements on climate change. From the Anglicans, Bahai’s, Buddhists, Baptists, Catholics, Episcopal, Evangelicals, Presbyterians, Quakers, Methodists, and Unitarian Universalists — there is also an Islam Faith Statement on Ecology.
Before the December 2009 U.N. Climate Treaty Conference in Copenhagen, several prominent Buddhists drafted a "pan-Buddhist" perspective on climate change, including “The Time to Act is Now” and A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency. In this Buddhist declaration, “The Time To Act Is Now” stresses the importance of “bringing the resources to bear on behalf of all living being.” The four noble truths provide a framework for diagnosing our current situation and formulating appropriate guidelines — because the threats and disasters we face ultimately stem from the human mind, and therefore require profound changes within our minds,” it says.
The Dalai Lama has also spoken out on climate change saying, “Today more than ever before life must be characterised by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.”
As far as I understand, the Buddhist relationship to the natural world is characterised by respect, humility, care, and compassion. Human beings are seen as part of nature and our existence is interconnected and interdependent. Buddhists also believe that natural processes are affected by human morals and several suttas from the Pali Canon show that early Buddhism believed in a close relationship between human morality and the natural environment (also defined in the theory of the five natural laws (panca niyamadhamma). According to the five natural laws, if immorality grips society, humankind and nature deteriorate; if morality holds strong, the quality of human life and nature improves. Greed, hatred and delusion produce pollution within and out — whereas generosity, compassion and wisdom produce purity within and out.
According to Martin Palmer, Secretary General of Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), Daoism and Confucianism — as the two indigenous spiritual and philosophical traditions of China — are at the very essence of the recovery of a specifically Chinese perspective on protecting our planet. Daoists created a statement on the environment over twenty year ago and in 2013, the Confucianists of China issued their first ever statement on the environment that argued that what the world needs is a spiritual humanism founded on Confucian values: “this world is a precious heritage passed on to us from our ancestors, and it is a resource entrusted to us by numerous generations yet to come."
We look forward to hearing more from Buddhists, Daoists and Confucians on climate change in 2015.
Updated 15 February 2015