Faith leaders call for urgent action on climate change

As world governments grind their way through the latest round of UN climate talks in Durban, faith leaders are urging them to put humanity first.

Government representatives have been meeting in the South African city this week for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to negotiate a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.

After five days of talks, climate campaigners are concerned by the lack of progress made so far on binding carbon emission cuts and a financial package to help poor countries adapt to the impact of climate change.

Faith leaders including Ela Ghandi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Ghandi, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, are pressing negotiators to reach an agreement before the summit ends next week.

They unveiled an interfaith declaration on climate change yesterday warning that the Earth faces "irreparable" damage if governments delay action any further.

The declaration states: “We call upon our leaders, those of our faiths, and all people of Earth to accept the reality of the common danger we face, the imperative and responsibility for immediate and decisive action, and the opportunity to change.”

However, Cardinal Napier fears that government representatives meeting in Durban will fail to reach an agreement.

“We express our displeasure with local and international political leadership which has failed to take decisive steps to make the changes required for the survival of humanity and life on earth,” he said.

“We as the religious community demand that our political leaders honour previous commitments and move towards ethically responsible positions and policies.

“There is strong evidence that such steps will not be made at COP 17.”

The faith declaration is backed by Christian Aid. The agency's climate expert, Mohamed Adow, said that the world could expect suffering on a “huge” scale if nothing is done to address climate change now.

“We want to leave Durban with a deal which is a strong response to the climate chaos which is hurtling towards us – and which is already having devastating effects on poor people,” he said.

“Governments need to agree how to respond to the latest climate science, which shows that without deep emissions cuts now, dangerous global warming will occur.

“It will cause human suffering on a terrifying scale.”