Faith in the convention: a spirit of trust at climate talks

08 December 2011 | News story

The world’s major religions have become increasingly engaged in environmental issues in recent years. At this week’s UNFCCC COP17 climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) is one example of how major faiths are not only getting involved in climate change debates, but are uniting across faiths in order to speak with one voice on issues of environmental justice.

Bishop Geoff Davies -- known as South Africa’s “Green Bishop” -- is representing the SAFCEI at the conference and explains the message his multi-faith group bring to the negotiations.

While Bishop Davies feels that their message is slowly getting across to decision makers and the world’s population in general, he fears that the current pace of change is far too slow.

What Davies and other spiritual leaders of his group hope for is the moment a critical mass of people, convinced of the urgency to act on climate change, create a tipping point where systematic societal change can occur. Himself a South African priest, he draws comparisons with the fall of Apartheid.

In stressing his opinion that the global economy must free itself from the shackles of fossil fuel, he makes another historical parallel, this time with the abolition of slavery.

The South African Faith Communities Institute collaborates with IUCN through its Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP), along with other environmental groups. The Institute thereby gains access to scientific and other expertise it is otherwise lacking.

Aside from his role as a multi-faith leader, from his own religious perspective as an Anglican Bishop, Davies considers the ideal Christian outcome from COP17, to be all about one thing: trust.