Four days before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon hosts a signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on climate change adopted by UN negotiators in Paris on 12th December, an Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders from 270 religious leaders supporting this pact, while also urging much more ambitious action, will be handed over to the President of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft.
The statement will be handed over at a high-level event today, on 18th April, at Chapel of the Church Center for the UN, 777 Dag Hammarskold Plaza.
Eminent signatories include: Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences of the Holy See, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches, Swami Aginivesh, Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Grand Imam Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad, Sister Jayanti Kirplani, Priestess Beatriz Schulthess and Sheikh Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order.
In addition to the high level signatures, the Statement is supported by 4,639 individuals and 86 groups from all over the world who have shown their support online by using the hashtag #Faiths4ParisAgreement. The handover will take place between 11am and 12pm EDT (GMT 3-4pm) in the chapel of the Church Center for the UN, East 45th St and 1st Avenue, New York.
The Statement supports the full and ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement and of all other decisions adopted at the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) last December. It also reaffirms the faith community’s support for more ambitious climate action – including the swift phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, accelerating the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy – as well as for the commitment in the Agreement to ´pursue efforts´ to limit the global temperature rise to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
‘The planet has already passed safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Unless these levels are rapidly reduced, we risk creating irreversible impacts putting hundreds of millions of lives, of all species, at severe risk’ the Statement´s initial section warns.
Both the Statement and today’s event serve to renew the strong commitment of the faith community to remain active in defining humanity´s moral responsibility to care for the Earth, as so powerfully stated in the Pope’s Encyclical, as well as in climate change statements by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh and other faith leaders.
Archbishop John Ribat, President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops´ Conferences of Oceania said: “we are heartened by the growing international concern about climate change and global warming. The protection of the atmosphere and the oceans are powerful examples of the need for political representatives and leaders of nations to take responsibility for the wellbeing of peoples beyond their own particular shores or borders. In some cases, entire regions and nations are under threat from the indisputable fact of rising sea levels.”
Ven. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, President of the Buddhist Council of New York explained: “The environment has been damaged primarily by human beings. It is human karma that we suffer as a result of our irresponsible selfish actions. It is our chance to be really responsible for our action with sincere reflection and wholesome action to the earth with a kind compassionate mindful-heart.”
His Holiness Radhanath Swami, International Society for Krishna Consciousnessm, said: “The environmental crisis is ultimately a crisis of the heart. The more we are disconnected from one another and from God, the more we are disconnected from Mother Earth. We must therefore strive to re-establish our relationship with the earth. To see the rivers, plants, animals and trees with equal vision – understanding that their is no hierarchy, that all life is sacred. By doing so we can begin the journey of restoring love and beauty to the world.”
The Rev. Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation stated: “climate change is the daily reality of people and communities who struggle to cope with adverse impacts of extreme weather events. It is neither abstract nor theoretical but rather a struggle for justice between people living in different places and between generations. Faith-based communities play a major role in advocating for a conversion of hearts and minds in order to bring about the necessary lifestyle changes to meet the effects of climate change. In addition they help us redefine and understand anew what matters most in life, now and in the future.”