Faith leaders call for urgent action on climate change

(Photo: Unsplash/Maxim Tolchinskiy)

There is an "urgent need" for action to limit the effects of climate change, faith leaders have warned ahead of a major UN summit in Scotland.

In a joint statement, they lay the blame for climate change at the feet of people who have "exploited the planet", and warn that the damage is being experienced "most heavily" by those living in poverty but "especially women and children".

The statement reminds leaders of their commitments in the 2015 Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, and urges them to see addressing climate change as "not just an opportunity to stop burning fossil fuels".

It has been issued ahead of the COP26 summit taking place in Glasgow in November.

"Our faith communities are united in caring for human life and the natural world. We share a belief in a hopeful future, as well as an obligation to be responsible in caring for our common home, the Earth," the faith leaders say.

"We recognise the opportunities that COP26 brings in addressing the urgent need for action in limiting the effects of climate change and the critical importance of decisions made in this conference to take forward the agreement made in Paris in 2015."

Signatories come from across the faith spectrum. Christian leaders who have signed the letter include the Coptic Archbishop of London, Archbishop Angaelos, the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Rev Lynn Green, and the Church of England's environmental lead, Bishop John Arnold.

The statement builds on the 2015 Lambeth Declaration in which faith leaders called for a legally-binding international agreement on climate change, and pledged to work with their own communities and partners in mitigating the effects of climate change.

It comes just days after an unprecedented joint statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch that asks people everywhere to make "meaningful sacrifices" for the sake of the planet.

The Glasgow Multi-Faith Declaration, released on Monday, continues, "Now, because of the gravity of our situation, the impact of climate change around the world, and the inequality of its effects we seek to strengthen those commitments." 

The faith leaders promise to care for the earth and work towards "a healthy, resilient, zero-emissions future", as they say that the transition to a "just and green economy" must be a "priority".

Other commitments include encouraging "transformational change" at the individual level, and holding governments and others in positions of power to account on implementing the Paris agreement.

"Across our doctrinal and political differences, we know that we must change our ways to ensure a quality of life which all can share, and we need to provide hope for people of all ages, everywhere, including future generations," they say.

"To offer hope in the world we need to have confidence that those in power understand the vital role they have to play at the Glasgow COP26.

"Our collective energy and prayers will be with those working for a successful outcome."