As part of its diverse series of events at COP21, IUCN convened a multi-faith panel on climate ethics and action, calling for the environmental community to reach out to a broad range of interests and beliefs in restoring the health of the planet.
The event was organised by the newly created Specialist Group on Religion, Spirituality, Environmental Conservation and Climate Justice (ReSpECC) of IUCN’s Commission on Environmental Economic and Social Policy (CEESP).
The panel was opened by IUCN Director General, Inger Andersen and included distinguished faith leaders and activists from the World Council of Churches, ACT Alliance, the Holy See (Vatican), the International Buddhists Confederation, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, the Fellowship of Church Councils of Southern Africa, the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University and OurVoices climate pilgrimage project.
Andersen emphasised the need for IUCN to reach out to a broad spectrum of actors working for the well-being of the planet, social justice and sustainability. Imam Ibrahim Saidy from Norway open with a prayer of peace and unity, paying homage to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks in Paris and all of those whose lives are endangered by climate change.
The leaders spoke extensively on the ethics of climate change, the need for human solidarity, courage and good faith. All of them expressed their dismay with the speed and attitude of the negotiations, and called on all people to work diligently to avert suffering and catastrophe.
Much of the frontline climate relief work is carried out by religious institutions and they are witness to the famines, diseases, forced migrations and human misery brought about by current energy and economic models.
A keynote speaker was Monsignor Luís-Miguel Muñoz Cárdaba, Counsellor at the Apostolic Nunciature to France, Holy See Embassy. In June 2015, Pope Francis released the Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si which has resonated around the globe, uniting Christians of all denominations as well as catalysing actions by other religious communities.
Monsignor Cárdaba spoke about the key principles of the Encyclical, resting on the teaching of ‘Ecological Conversion’. This conversion, spoken about by several Popes, calls on humanity to see the connection between caring for creation and biodiversity within a framework of social justice and a new economic paradigm that heals the world rather than harms it.
The African and Asian climate justice networks recounted their massive global mobilisations and pilgrimages. Using the religious institution of the pilgrimage, people of different faiths joined together to walk across Asian countries, to cycle from Mozambique to Nairobi, and to walk from the Vatican to Paris.
ReSpECC helps coordinate the multifaith caucus at the climate change conferences. Nigel Crawhall, Chair of ReSpECC noted that faith based engagement in the UN climate conferences has been increasing dramatically in the past few years, with major Islamic and Buddhist mobilisation joining the strong Christian presence. The Encyclical’s presence is felt in Paris, with many world leaders talking for the first time about the morality of climate change, duty to coming generations, and one Head of State quoting Laudato Si in his opening speech.
The event was led in prayer by His Grace, Thabo Makgabo, Anglican Archbishop of Southern African and closed with a simple ceremony by Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Bhikkhu Thầy Pháp Dung, from the famous French Plum Village Sangha. Venerable Thầy rang his meditation bowl and asked people to connect with the living world, to walk gently, value each breath, and find the sacred within our relationship with all living things.