As COP26 approaches, faith organizations across the world are intensifying their calls for bold action against climate change, also in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Ahead of the UN summit due to convene in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12, hundreds of religious leaders from the five continents have signed a “Sacred People, Sacred Heart Statement”, urging a joint response to the climate and COVID-19 crisis. The petition is sponsored by the multi-faith climate and environmental movement Green Faith, and its signatories include Catholic and other Christian leaders.
Expressing concern over the accelerating climate emergency and the damage caused by COVID-19, “especially to vulnerable people”, the signatories say that a “far better future is possible if our collective response to the pandemic and the climate crisis is guided by compassion, love and justice at a scale that meets this moment”. “The good life is one of connectedness — with each other and all of nature”, they stress.
We are united by a fundamental belief that all people, all living things, and the Earth are sacred.
As we consider the state of the world today, our hearts overflow with concern.
We are frightened and frustrated by the damage that COVID-19 is inflicting on our communities. The pandemic has revealed cruel injustices. The vulnerable suffer the most severe impacts. We know about this injustice. We have seen it before. These same communities are disproportionately and catastrophically affected by the accelerating climate emergency.
We must not only provide the relief that so many need to survive. We must create a new culture, politics and economy of life that heals people and planet.
According to the faith leaders, Governments meeting in Scotland should commit to actions that “do not perpetuate an outdated economic system that relies on fossil fuels and the destruction of the very forests, waters, oceans and soils that make life possible”.
Instead, “they should accelerate renewable energy development; ensure universal access to clean water and air, affordable clean energy, and food grown with respect for the land; create jobs paying family-sustaining wages to workers in safe conditions”.
The statement goes on to list ten suggestions, or “Demands”, to invert this trend concerning: clean energy; compassionate finance; employment; Indigenous peoples self-determination; hospitality for migrants; restoration of the environment, biodiversity; divestment from fossil fuels and exploitative agriculture; climate reparations from wealthy countries; bold faith community leadership.
- ENERGY – 100% renewable, clean energy for all!
- FINANCE – Global finance aligned with compassionate values!
- EMPLOYMENT- Jobs and healthcare for all!
- SELF-DETERMINATION- Respect Indigenous rights!
- HOSPITALITY- Welcome for migrants!
- RESTORATION- No more climate pollution!
- BIO-DIVERSITY- End the planet’s desecration!
- DIVESTMENT- Eliminate immoral investment!
- REPARATION-Climate reparations from wealthy countries!
- COMMUNITY- Bold faith community leadership!
Models of environmental leadership
On their part, the faith leaders vow to be “models of environmental leadership” and pledge to power their own facilities with 100% renewable energy where possible and as soon as possible, and to divest from fossil fuel and industrial agriculture sectors and the banks that finance these industries. They also promise to invest in climate solutions and encourage the people under their care to participate in transforming the earth through advocacy, education, job training and other means.
Healthy Planet, Healthy People Petition
Meanwhile, thousands of people across the world have signed the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People Petition”, addressed to world leaders at the COPs. The initiative is sponsored by the Laudato sì Movement (formerly known as Global Catholic Climate Movement) and was launched in May this year during “Laudato Si’ Week”. The petition, among other things, advocates for more binding agreements from policymakers to tackle the biodiversity crisis and reduce air pollution emissions. Furthermore, it stresses the need for greater awareness, backed up by active involvement of grass-root communities.
Links that have been used to inform the content of this article:
Vatican News – Faith Leaders Urge Action for Climate Justice ahead of COP26
Sacred People, Sacred Earth (actionnetwork.org)
About COP26 see COP26 in 2021 – Presentation Sisters Union North East Ireland (presentationsistersne.ie)