Islamic leaders call for fast action on climate change

At the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium with Muslim leaders from across the world.

Islamic leaders from 20 countries yesterday called for rapid transition from a world economic order based on fossil fuel to one powered by renewable energy.

Wael Hmaidan, international director of Climate Action Network (CAN), described the declaration adopted by 60 prominent Islamic scholars and religious leaders at the two-day International Islamic Climate Change Symposium as a potential "game changer."

"It challenges all world leaders, and especially oil producing nations," Hmaidan said, "to phase out their carbon emissions and supports the just transition to 100 percent renewable energy as a necessity to tackle climate change, reduce poverty and deliver sustainable development," according to a CAN report.

As part of a worldwide groundswell, the declaration urges governments to deliver a new international climate agreement in Paris this December that guarantees limiting global warming above pre-industrial levels to 2, but preferably 1.5, degrees Celsius.

The declaration makes the moral case, based on Islamic teachings, for the 1.6 billion Muslims and people of all faiths worldwide to take urgent climate action. The declaration is in sync with the much lauded Encyclical by Pope Francis released two months ago. For its part, the Vatican has enthusiastically endorsed the Islamic declaration.

"The climate crisis needs to be tackled through collaborative efforts, so let's work together for a better world for our children, and our children's children," declared Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema.

Speakers at the Symposium included three senior UN officials, scientists, NGO leaders and academics. Also attending were religious leaders from many other faith traditions.

Pope Francis' activism, especially since the release of his Encyclical in June, has energized people of faith who have long advocated for the environment. Since June, the World Council of Churches, Unitarian Universalists, Union Seminary, and the Episcopal Church have all divested from fossil fuels. As of Aug. 13, 403 rabbis had signed a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, calling for vigorous action to prevent worsening climate disruption and to seek eco-social justice.

In a related action, in July more than 180 evangelical Christian leaders signed a letter backing President Barack Obama's plan to reduce carbon emission from power plants.

The Climate Change Symposium Declaration urged "well-off nations" and oil producing states to "re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world's poor."

Among other notable demands, the declaration called on the people of all nations and their leaders:

  • "To set in motion a fresh model of wellbeing, based on an alternative to the current financial model which depletes resources, degrades the environment, and deepens inequality.
  • "Prioritize adaptation efforts with appropriate support to the vulnerable countries with the least capacity to adapt. And vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples, women and children.

The declaration further called on the corporations, finance, and business sector:

  • "To shoulder the consequences of their profit-making activities, and take a visibly more active role in reducing their carbon footprint and other forms of impact upon the natural environment;
  • "Change from the current business model which is based on an unsustainable escalating economy, and to adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable;
  • "Assist in the divestment from the fossil fuel driven economy and the scaling up of renewable energy and other ecological alternatives."

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People's World
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This article was originally published in People's World by Juan Lopez.

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