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Copenhagen summit and faith: could there be any link?

Updated Tuesday, 8th December 2009

Climate change is a real issue, and one that politicians and global corporations are looking at seriously. What role do religious leaders have to play in the debate?

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Human-induced climate change poses a grave risk to all inhabitants of the Earth - flora, fauna and us. There is overwhelming evidence it's happening and the future impacts will be even more severe.

The recent demonstrations ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit are just one indicator of peoples’ concern and their demand for international action. This is understandable as a lot depends on the outcome of this summit; both in terms of goodwill and practical action.

The key organiser for one of the major demonstration event in the UK was Stop Climate Chaos, a climate change coalition of primarily environmental and international development NGOs.

Climate change is no more an issue of earth-first ethos only, but is now also that of a moral/social justice, so it's not surprising that quite a number of the members of this coalition are faith-based organizations. It is predicted that the impacts of climate change are going to hurt the poor in developing countries particularly badly, and these are the people who are least able to cope with its impact, even though they had contributed least to get us to this crisis stage.

Why faith-based organizations?

The involvement of faith-based organisations in social action is not new. Singly or in coalition with other secular movements, they've been behind some of the most significant historical events. Some recent examples of their contributions include the struggles against slave trade and apartheid as well as their role in the tearing down of the Iron Curtain.

Interfaith Climate Summit.

Interfaith Climate Summit.

Picture © copyright Fotograf Magnus Aronson.

Maria Nita is a PhD student at the Open University studying faith-based groups participating in the Climate Change campaign in Britain. She has been conducting her field work during the past two years which had involved visiting and participating with activists. Maria says one source of strength for such organizations is that faith gives a strong sense of identity to participants. She also adds although there could be some differences in the action details of coalition members, there is an overwhelming unity in the common goal, both among faith-based organisations and the secular sector. Last year, faith based organizations had undertaken their own climate summit in Uppsala, Sweden to urge action. Even this weekend’s action (The Wave) symbolically started off with an ecumenical service ahead of protest march.

In conclusion, it is a positive step to see faith-based organizations take leadership of their respective adherents (not too few as they are) and making their voice heard for the common good of all the Earth’s inhabitants.


Interfaith Climate Summit: Uniting for the Planet's Future.

Find out more

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Alliance of Religions and Conservation

Study with The Open University

Open University Courses in Religious Studies

Open University qualifications in Environment, Development and International Studies





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