Climate Action |

Climate Action 2020

As a result of the experience of real people in real places, new scientific studies and the collection of hard data during 2020, we now know more than we have ever known before about the state of Earth’s climate and we know it with greater certainty.

Human experience and scientific evidence reinforce the conviction of the Parliament of the World’s Religions that the reality and basic causes of climate change are settled science. We are also convinced that the evidence for the danger posed by human-caused climate change is irrefutable and that the danger is growing rapidly.

This is the world humans have chosen with their decisions and their behavior. Unless we choose differently and behave more wisely, the world will not change for the better. For all persons of good faith, 2020 must be a year of action to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for and address the inescapable consequences of the changes we have already caused.

2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 have been the hottest five-year periods in recorded human history. The impacts of rising temperatures on our planet and our lives are drastic and indisputable. Nine of the warmest years ever recorded by modern record-keeping have occurred since 2005, and 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2001.

Business as usual will do nothing to alter these trends.

Climate change affects all of us. Even more daunting is the fact that climate change will affect every human born in the 21st century and beyond. Our decisions and action in 2020 will shape the conditions for all life, including humans, on our planet for the foreseeable future. Further, the wicked truth about climate change is that while it affects everyone, it does not affect us all equally.

Organized religions and faith-based communities around the world have come to similar and mutually supportive conclusions; because of this our ability to affect the future of our planet is immense. In his address to the Parliament’s Global Convening in Toronto, Iyad Abu Moghli, head of the Faith for Earth Initiative of UN Environment, detailed the immense potential of organized religions to change the world by changing our behavior.

In the communication from the Parliament’s Convening to the nations gathered for the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, the consensual position of more than 8000 representatives was summarized:

The urgency of the need to mitigate climate change led preeminent representatives of numerous religious traditions and indigenous peoples, as well as leaders from the scientific community and civil society, gathered in solidarity at the Parliament of the World’s Religions November 4, 2018 Climate Assembly, to resolutely appeal to all of humanity to take bold and decisive action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Over 8,200 people attended the Toronto Parliament.

In a spirit of harmony, we join in calling for Climate Action; individuals, organizations, businesses, and institutions at all levels of organization must actively accept responsibility for the impacts of climate change on life on Earth. Those with the greatest opportunity to reduce emissions and counter adverse consequences have the greatest responsibility to act aggressively and decisively. And must do so.

While the actions of individuals continue to impact the Earth’s climate, it is now clearer than ever before that it is our collective behavior that must change. No national government has yet done enough to reduce cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases. Taken together, the action commitments of the world’s governments still fall short of changing the trajectory of our planet from widespread disaster and extensive human misery.

The engagement of the spiritual communities of the world is critical to every aspect of that challenge. We will not do what is in our hearts if we do not listen to what is in our hearts. And if we see no meaning and value in the world beyond what our science and our economics can reveal, we will lack the motivation to make the tough choices we must make and accept responsibility for our actions.

The wisdom on which we must draw as we choose our futures will come from diverse traditions and insights catalyzed by common purpose – the wellbeing of humans, our societies, and Earth’s natural systems. As diverse as our cultures and traditions may be, it is certain that we will share the future together. Faith communities can help us recognize our interdependence, see beyond our science and knowledge to perceive meaning and wisdom, and encourage mutually reinforcing action. And there is a fearsome urgency to this challenge.

Each day our actions write the future across the face of this planet. Just as we have chosen the world in which we live today, we can choose a better world for our future. The religions, the faith traditions, and our individual spiritual experience are essential to making those choices wisely.

We invite all who share our concerns and values to join with us in these endeavors. 

Climate Action Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions

David Hales, Chair

COVID19, Climate Change, and Our Work at the CATF

The COVID19 Pandemic which broke out in December of 2019 has painfully affected us as individuals and it has altered the operations of the Climate Action Task Force, but only in minor ways. We cancelled one in-person CATF meeting, but we long ago committed to the use of virtual communications and gatherings to avoid GHG emissions.

The COVID Pandemic has stripped bare any pretention that our current approach to production and consumption is sustainable or just. It has demonstrated the interconnectedness of natural and economic systems, and the risk of anthropocentric values and decision-making. It has demonstrated that when global natural systems are damaged, human beings everywhere are among the victims. And it has demonstrated that the impacts are unequally distributed across humankind.

At the same time, the Pandemic has demonstrated that new ways of working, gathering, and cooperating are as effective and far more efficient than many of the travel and work habits that we had fallen into. It has demonstrated that human political systems are capable of rapid response – the kind of rapid response that will be necessary to meet the challenges of climate change. Finally, it has given us a glimpse of the instability inherent in a carbon-based energy economy, and the importance of a rapid and carefully managed transition to a post-carbon economy.

We see confirmation and reinforcement of our basic mission in the tragic lessons of this pandemic. We would be foolish not to emphasize these lessons, learn from them, and seek opportunity in the crisis.

About Parliament and the CATF

The Parliament of the World’s Religions, acting with the leadership of its Climate Action Task Force, seeks to encourage and enable collective and individual action to reduce and counter the adverse impacts of human-caused climate change. The Task Force bases its mandate in the Interfaith Call to Action of October, 2015 and December, 2016, and the unanimous adoption of The Fifth Directive to the Parliament’s Global Ethic. We continue to welcome endorsement of those statements.​​​​​​​

The Parliament is not a scientific organization. We make no claim to independent findings or insights regarding the physical state of our planet, the causes of climate change, or its impacts on humans and their environments. We do assert, however, the universal responsibility for each person to be accountable for our actions.

The CATF has laid out a robust program of activities for 2020. We work internationally, with multiple partners and collaborations, and through a variety of platforms. Our major projects and initiatives include the following:

  • Work is underway for a republication of Faith and Earth, the seminal work first published in 2020 on the links between faith and the preservation of our planet Earth. The new version, with a fresh and updated look, will be released at the end of the year.
  • We held a Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue on Climate Change in April. Over 500 people engaged in the dialogue and many wanted to see it continue. Thus, it has grown into an ongoing initiative. The Catholic-Buddhist dialogue is grounded in the sense that the heart and wisdom of these two traditions — love and compassion for the earth and all her beings, the deep awareness of the interconnectedness of all life — are vital to the transformation of consciousness needed to address the myriad causes of the ecological crisis we face. 
  • We continue to expand and grow capacity for the Climate Commitments Project (CCP), launched at the Toronto Parliament in 2018. This year the project will support the work of partner organizations diligently working to raise the ambition of climate commitments around the world. We also continue our Global Conversations initiative, an outgrowth of the CCP which creates space for open, free-flowing dialogue between faith-based climate leaders.
  • In recognition that 2020 is the 5th anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, we are working with the United Nations and the United Religions Initiative on a report outlining the progress faith-based organizations have made toward the SDGs to date, with recommendations for further progress to meet ambitious and important benchmarks.

In 2019, the work of the Task Force included:

  • Emphasizing the importance of Global Interfaith Harmony in encouraging and supporting climate action by individuals and communities, governments at all levels, religious congregations, and for-profit and not-for-profit entities to reduce and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by reforming patterns of production and consumption, decreasing reliance on fossil fuels, promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency, and promoting the sustainability of natural systems.
  • Advocating aggressive action by the National Governments, International Agencies and Financial Institutions, and Corporations and business entities in implementing and supporting the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Two examples are the Climate Webforum we maintain and our advocacy work on Juliana vs. United States, the youth climate lawsuit, including the drafting of an amicus curiae brief and a well attended webinar with an interfaith perspective on Juliana.
  • Promoting and supporting the transition to clean, safe, and affordable renewable energy in all countries, and the realization of a post-carbon global economy with fair and affordable access to energy for all.
  • Enabling cooperation in adopting, fulfilling, and measuring the impact of organizational and individual commitments to change with the completion of Phase 1 of our Climate Commitments Project. In March 2019 our Global Map of the actions of interfaith and religious entities in meeting the challenge of climate change was introduced, demonstrating the range of actions underway, and making it possible for change-makers around the world to cooperate in a way never before possible.

Commit Yourself. Commit Your Community.
Commit Your Leaders, and Your Media.

For up to date news on Climate Change, please visit the UN Climate Change Newsroom

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