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The climate crisis also a moral crisis: Muslims

Calling on world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to support strong Paris agreement on climate change”


by Jenny Goldie continuing our series of interviews with religious leaders on their faith’s views regarding man-made climate change.

An extraordinarily radical document was issued on 18 August: the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change.* While very similar in content and spirit to the Pope’s encyclical, it differed in one respect – it was a mere eight pages.

Convenor of the drafting committee, Fazlun Khalid, speaking to The Bulletin from London, explained its length: “We wanted it to be read!” Indeed, he wants an even more abbreviated version to be framed and hung in every mosque.

Khalid is recognised as one of 15 leading eco-theologians in the world. Sri Lankan born, he has lived most of his life in the UK where he founded the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, the world’s leading Islamic environmental NGO.

“We have been the leader in Islamic thinking. I reached out for academics and environmentalists and built a team,” he said.

The statement was signed off by 60 leading Muslim clerics and religious scholars at the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul. It calls on the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to support a strong Paris agreement on climate change at the end of this year.

When asked who it had gone to, he laughs. “Oh, the fun starts now. Not least, we want to give it to every Muslim delegate going to Paris.”

What the Declaration says

The Declaration pulls no punches. It says ecosystems and human cultures are already at risk from climate change; that heatwaves, extreme precipitation and coastal flooding are on the rise; that the risks are greater for the poor and disadvantaged; that the foreseeable impacts will adversely affect the world’s biodiversity and our overall economy; and that Earth’s core physical systems are at risk of abrupt and irreversible changes.

And just as US President Obama is about to give final approval to Shell to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic, it noted “with alarm the multi-national scramble now taking place for more fossil fuel deposits under the dissolving icecaps in the arctic regions”.

Interestingly, while the international community aims for global warming to be limited to 2oC, the Declaration acknowledges that “other climate scientists consider 1.5oC to be a more likely tipping point.” These warnings, of course, include those by leading climate scientist James Hansen.

The Islamic community believes that the climate crisis is also a moral crisis. The Declaration recognises “the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources”. It calls on the well-off nations 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”.

As well as calling on the people of all nations to aim to phase out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, the Declaration calls on the 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”.

You had a strong message for business? Khalid was asked. He laughed. “We’re awaiting their response. The Guardian, Washington Post and New York Times reported on us. There has been no response from the business community. Maybe they agree with us?” More laughter.

In the end, there was a strong warning for the Conference of Parties (COP) that will draw up a resolution in Paris, calling on them to bear in mind the scientific consensus on climate change; the need to set clear targets; the consequences of not doing so; and the enormous responsibility that the COP shoulders on behalf of the rest of humanity.

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