PRESIDENT OF UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY RECEIVES INTERFAITH CLIMATE CHANGE STATEMENT TO WORLD LEADERS SIGNED BY 270 HIGH-LEVEL FAITH LEADERS
New York, 19 April. At a colourful multifaith ceremony with Buddhist chants, Zoroastrian prayers and Sikh drumming at the Church Center for the UN, Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly took delivery this morning of the Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders signed by 270 high-level religious leaders, 4970 individuals and 176 religious groups from around the world.
The Statement was handed to Mr. Lykketoft by ´millenial generation´ 23-year old Stephen Chiu, Outreach Specialist of the international Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation.
Amongst key signatories of the Statement are (full list here) : His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama; Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches; Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences of the Holy See; Swami Aginivesh; Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen; Grand Imam Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad; Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu; Sister Jayanti Kirplani, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University; Priestess Beatriz Schulthess, President of the Indigenous Peoples´ Ancestral Spiritual Council; and Sheikh Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya, Sufi Order.
"This and other religious initiatives demonstrate that climate change is now firmly accepted as a moral issue", Mr. Lykketoft said. "The Statement shows how religions can be a catalyst for common action. You are telling your followers that you recognize the seriousness of climate change, its impacts on the vitality of the planet and the wellbeing of humanity. You are demanding action to be taken now. "
"Most of the action will have to come from individuals. The faith community is part of the broader Civil Society movement and plays an absolutely critical role in reaching out to followers to change their behavior and demand smart policies. An initiative like this makes me confident that we can and will succeed."
Ambassador François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in New York stated that "the convergence of so many faith communities is heartening and encouraging. The level of commitment of faith leaders in combatting climate change and supporting the Paris Agreement is unprecedented. We are the last generation with the ability to prevent climate change getting out of control with disastrous consequences. There is no Plan B, no Planet B."
"Paris was just the beginning of a long, hard journey to a carbon-free world", Mr. Delattre continued, "but a turning point. COP 21 was a collective not a French success, demonstrating the vitality of the UN system and of multilateralism. Hard choices are ahead, and skepticism and cynicism are still rampant. We need to continue listening to our conscience, which is why the faith community is so important and so inspiring."
Speaking on behalf of the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the UN, his deputy Dr. Abderrazak Laasel thanked faith communities for addressing climate change. "There are many opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of the fight against climate change. It is very important for faith leaders to create greater awareness. There is a significant role for communication and education in the protection of natural resources, and it is important to enhance contacts between religious and other groups."
(France and Morocco are co-presidents of the 22nd Conference of Contracting Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change to be held in Marrakech, Morocco 7-18 November 2016)
Halldor Thorgeirsson, Director of Strategy at the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said, "I am very encouraged at the strong expression of support. Your Statement shows that you understand that avoiding dangerous climate change requires fundamental economic transformation, not fine tuning of existing systems, leading to deep and later full decarbonisation of the energy supply. This transition will bring multiple other benefits and open huge opportunities. So the moral and economic imperatives are fully aligned in this case."
"150 nations will sign the Paris Agreement on Friday and entry into force is likely next year. We won´t achieve its goals without the massive mobilization of all actors of society. There is need for a deep moral motivation for change - religion can continue to be a powerful part of the solution. This challenge has injected a new urgency into the dialogue between religions."
According to Selwin Hart, Leader of the UN Secretary-General´s Climate Change Team "faith communities are vital for promoting global efforts to address the climate change challenge. Sixty heads of state or government will be among the 150 nations represented at Friday´s signing of the Paris Agreement – a record. A number of small island developing states will deposit ratification instruments, on the same day."
The Rt. Reverend Mark MacDonald, Bishop for Indigenous Peoples, Anglican Church of Canada stated that "the communion of all things is what is at stake. Indigenous peoples are uniquely threatened by climate change, though the least responsible. The Paris Agreement is a beginning, we are called to go further. I invite you all to re-establish that communion and to achieve our moral transformation."
Sister Gayatri, UN representative of the Brahma Kumaris said that her organization and its partner World Renewal Spiritual Trust had for the last 20 years been conducting training research and development in renewable energy technologies, installing and operating hundreds of solar cooking and photovoltaic systems, as well as setting up the India One, 1Mw solar thermal power plant, partly funded by the German and Indian Governments. "Brahma Kumaris believe the seed of world renewal is an awakened consciousness - not only with the spiritual and religious communities but as a collective capacity of humanity".
HH Radhanath Swami, Hindi, member of the Board of Governors of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness indicated that the current ecology of the planet reflected the ecology of our hearts. "The climate change challenge is an opportunity to put aside our differences and unite to appeal to the world´s leaders to genuinely put forth policies and actions to honour our sacred trust".
Tomas Insua, Founding Co-ordinator of the 300 member Global Catholic Climate Movement reported that a group travelling to the North Pole with a copy of the Pope´s Encyclical on integral ecology ´Laudato Si´ was being delayed by ice cracks, showing the severely threatened status of the Arctic Ice. "We are very concerned at the huge gap between nice words and actual actions from governments," he noted. "This is a spiritual crisis. We call for climate justice towards all humanity and all species."
Additional statements were made by the Global Chairperson of the United Religions Initiative, Kiran Bali, Iman Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, Vice President of the Muslim Alliance of North America and Dr. Kenjuitsu Nakagaki, President of the Buddhist Council of New York.
The event was moderated by Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith, a New Jersey based center for advocacy and training of faith leaders in environmental issues.
Collaborating organizations in developing and disseminating the Statement and inviting signatures from faith leaders are: ACT Alliance, Bhumi Project, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Catholic Earthcare Australia, Eco-Sikh, the Elijah Interfaith Institute, Global Buddhist Climate Change Collective, Global Catholic Climate Movement, GreenFaith, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Lutheran World Federation, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhists, United Religions Initiative and World Council of Churches.
Further information at www.interfaithstatement2016.org