U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged religious leaders on Tuesday to push their governments to take bolder action on climate change at a key U.N. summit next month.
Religious leaders have “the longest, widest and deepest reach” in society, Ban told representatives of major faith groups gathered for the faith-based climate change summit in England, according to U.K.-based Guardian newspaper.
Faith groups run more than half of the world’s schools, operate more weekly publications than “all the secular press” in the European Union, control financial investments worth trillions, and own nearly eight percent of habitable land on the planet.
“Your potential impact is enormous,” Ban said.
The U.N. secretary-general urged faith leaders to harness their influence to encourage more environmentally friendly lifestyles and to “provoke, challenge and inspire political leaders” to “act more boldly” on tackling the climate change problem.
Religious groups attending the three-day summit, which ends Wednesday, reported various plans on how they would contribute to a healthier planet.
Buddhists in China would promote vegetarianism and moderation in burning incense sticks. In India, Sikhs pledged to use solar power in the temples and conduct energy audits.
American environmentalist Bill McKibben, founder of climate action group 350.org, shared about the two strong groups of supporters – educated youth and faith-based groups – for his cause.
Last week, 350.org organized International Day of Climate Action that attracted support from many churches. Across the United States last Saturday, churches rang their bells 350 times to warn of the threat of global climate change.
The number 350 represents the limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say is safe – 350 parts per million.
“If Earth is in some way a museum of divine intent, it’s pretty horrible to be defacing all that creation,” said McKibben, who is also serves occasionally as a Methodist minister, according to Agence France-Presse.
“And if, in Christianity and other faiths, we are called upon above all else to love God and love our neighbors, drowning your neighbor in Bangladesh is a pretty bad way to go about it,” he added.
Among Muslims, some 200 leaders of the faith had gathered in Istanbul in July to form a seven-year climate change action plan. One of the measures agreed on was the creation of a “Muslim eco-label” for products and services ranging from the printing of the Qur’an to organized pilgrimages.
The faith-based climate change summit took place while Ban was visiting London to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Ban told reporters Tuesday after his meeting with Brown that nations participating in next month’s U.N. Summit on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, are unlikely to agree on details for a new climate change pact. However, he hopes countries can agree on four points: the level of emissions cuts for rich nations; plans to reduce emissions for poor nations; a financial package to help developing countries to adapt; and a system to manage the process.
"I'm reasonably optimistic that Copenhagen will be a very important milestone,” Ban said. “At the same time, realistically speaking, we may not be able to agree [on] all the words.”
The Copenhagen summit will set the stage for the adoption of a U.N. climate change treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The U.N. Climate Change Conference will take place Dec. 7-18.