Faith-based engagement with climate deal for 2015 and beyond

Here is a report from an interfaith perspective from the Bonn Climate Change Conference.

By Nigel Crawhall, Interfaith Liaison Committee

Bonn, 22 October 2014

Faith-based organisations and networks have been steadily increasing their engagement in climate advocacy work. As the UNFCCC Parties negotiate the 2015 agreement, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’I and other faith movements are careful watching the process. An interfaith caucus process has been steadily emerging since COP14, with some groupings such as the World Council of Churches having been involved since before the original treaty was even drafted.

As each element of the climate crisis strikes, it is the churches, mosques and temples at the frontline of relief services, helping to bury the dead and console the grieving. People typically turn to the places of worship for safety, support and emergency services. All of the faith networks report that their budgetary expenditures are soaring and they feel a duty to become more involved in climate crisis prevention, mitigation and adaptation. This however, needs to be understood in a broader agenda of justice, peace and a meaningful quality of life for both rich and poor.

The overall concern of the faith-based organisations is that the UNFCCC process has shifted from the core mission of the United Nations, the upholding of the ethical principle of human rights and ensuring global governance to promote peace, security and now the attention to sustainable development. The once evident value-based work of the United Nations has morphed into a type of competitive self-interest where those who are the perpetrators of harmful climate impacts show no remorse or ownership, and those who have once been on the weak end of the global economy, but are emerging as powerful economies and emitters, cling to the history rather than face up to their current and future duties.

For FBOs, the challenge is how to get the ethical and moral questions back at the heart of the negotiations.

As the Roman Catholic delegate at the caucus meeting at ADP 2-6 noted, it is like the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible. Cain in a fit of rage kills his own brother Abel. God who has seen all and knows what is in heart, asks Cain what has happened.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

It is precisely this question which the Parties to the Convention most wish to avoid, and like Cain, behave that if they deny it, avoid it, table it and create an ad hoc working group, this somehow absolves them from the consequences and the responsibility.

In Buddhism, the term is ‘hiri ottappa’, which means moral dread or moral shame. If the perpetrator of a harmful act, and we can think of rapists, murders, child-abusers, do not confront themselves about the unwholesome origin of their actions, and seek atonement for their negative karmic deads, they can never benefit from release, liberation and ultimate nibbana.

In Lima, the Peruvian Inter-religious Council will be the interfaith host for religious and spiritual constituencies. They will facilitate the interfaith caucus, hold interfaith solidarity events, work with the #fastfortheclimate movement, and assist with a two day conference on religious duty and climate change.

Thursday 23 October will be a key day for discussing the INDCs and with it the future of multilateralism and human compassionate action.

It is also the start of Diwali, when a billion Hindus. Diwali is the festival of light and represents the victory of hope over despair and light over dark. As Lydia Mogano from the We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice network reported in the caucus meeting:

“In New York we looked for one word to motivate the faith movement. We saw all the people protesting and uniting and chose the word ‘hope’. Now in Bonn, watching the negotiations, I think our word will need to be ‘courage’.”

The Peruvian link is here:

The most recent Holy See contribution is here:

International Buddhist statement on climate change:

Dr. Nigel Crawhall
CEESP – WCPA Strategic Direction / Theme on Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities, Equity & Protected Areas

IUCN Focal point on Resolution 009/12 on faith, climate and the environment.

6th World Parks Congress home page:


3 thoughts on “Faith-based engagement with climate deal for 2015 and beyond

  1. The 9th Global Buddhist Conference in WA does not include climate warming on the agenda. Shale gas and tight gas hydraulic fracturing are about to start in Western Australia. The risks to the environment from these industries are real and make no mistake we are the environment.

  2. Thanks I just read this reply of yours. Now there’s at least 2 buddhists concerned about fossil fuels turning us into fossils. A company is about to frack on the recharge window of a major aquifer just north of Perth. Its a bit like putting heavy industry on the source of life. They put the flares horizontal to avoid detection. They modify the fault maps and disconnect the flow lines and gradually obscure the truth. Except someone out there knows what they have done….

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