As over 300,000 people marched through the streets of New York demanding climate justice, thirty faith leaders met to sign a joint statement for fair and ambitious climate negotiations, prior to the UN Climate Summit on Tuesday 23rd September.
As over 300,000 people took to the streets of New York in the biggest ever People’s Climate March, faith leaders met to discuss their role in the climate negotiations, signing a statement calling for urgent action for those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), opened the meeting with a speech that stood in solidarity with the interfaith group. She emphasised the key role that faith groups play in holding up the moral imperative for action on climate change, saying: “This has to be kept in the context of spirituality.”
Christiana continued, “This is truly a momentus day. We are making history, and we are making history together.”
Thirty faith leaders signed the statement, after reading it out together. Among them, Dr Agnes Abuom from the Anglican Church of Kenya, Archbishop Emeritus Dr Anders Wejryd from the Church of Sweden, Rev Jim Wallis of Sojourners Washington, USA, and Rev Suzanne Matale from the Council of Churches in Zambia.
The statement called for justice and equality, and noted the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable:
“We recognize that these effects disproportionally affect the lives, livelihoods and rights of poorer, marginalized and therefore most vulnerable populations, including indigenous peoples. When those who have done the least to cause climate change are the ones hardest hit, it becomes an issue of injustice. Equitable solutions are urgently needed.”
It continued, “We recognize that climate change stands today as a major obstacle to the eradication of poverty. Severe weather events exacerbate hunger, cause economic insecurity, force displacement and prevent sustainable development. The climate crisis is about the survival of humanity on planet earth, and action must reflect these facts with urgency.”
Faith leaders committed to tackling the effects of climate change in disaster risk reduction, adaptation, education, and personal lifestyle changes. They called on all leaders who would attend the United Nation’s Climate Summit – held in New York on Tuesday 23rd September 2014 – to “announce pledges for the Green Climate Fund, including commitments to increase them thereafter, to establish new partnerships for climate resilience and low carbon development, and to assure access to renewable energies for all people.”
Encouraging leadership and strong action, the faith leaders concluded, “We pray for you and for all humanity in caring for the earth.”
Christiana Figueres applauded the leadership of faith groups in demanding climate action and asked for their continued support. She said, “We can address climate change; we have the capital and we have the technology. We can begin to populate the possibilities.”
Speaking ahead of the UN Climate Summit, Christiana said, “Tuesday night does not solve climate change. It does not end the process, but it is a milestone.”
Christiana urged faith groups worldwide to join the Our Voices campaign and sign the petition for a strong climate treaty in Paris next year. She asked faith groups to continue to extend the “ark of faith and of love” in support of her role as climate secretary, and to continue to call for strong action, towards the UNFCCC meeting in Paris 2015, and beyond.
In the picture: Dr Agnes Abuom signs the interfaith climate statement.