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World faiths must lead by example over climate crisis, Welby tells pre-COP summit

07 November 2023


Sultan al-Jaber, president-designate of COP28, was addressed by the faith leaders on Monday

Sultan al-Jaber, president-designate of COP28, was addressed by the faith leaders on Monday

RELIGIOUS leaders are not living up to their call and must lead by example in addressing the climate crisis, the Archbishop of Canterbury told the Global Leaders Faith Summit held in Abu Dhabi on Monday and Tuesday.

Addressing the gathering by video, Archbishop Welby drew on conversations from around the Anglican Communion which exemplified the plight of “people whose lives have been devastated by flooding in Bangladesh, cyclones in North America, rising sea levels in the Pacific islands, famine in Madagascar, drought in South Sudan”.

The consequences of the abuse of the planet, he said, were being “borne by our brothers and sisters who have done least to cause the problem”. The crisis, which he described as one born of injustice, and a cause of suffering to those already living in poverty and insecurity, demanded the attention of people of faith. “People of all faiths share this call of reverence for our world,” he said. “But we also share the concern that we are not living up to that call. Our actions must reflect our faith, and our faith must guide our actions.”

The Archbishop spoke of the Church of England’s pledge to be a net-zero, carbon-neutral Church by 2030, and of the exclusion of fossil-fuel companies from its investment portfolio. But there was much more to be done both domestically and internationally, from a commitment to phasing out fossil fuels and developing technology that could deliver clean energy, to delivering the promised $100-billion climate finance and agreeing on a Loss and Damage Fund (News, 25 November 2022).

These were, he said, “politically difficult decisions. This is a crisis that calls for leadership, and the leadership of people of faith could not be more important. Faith leaders represent the majority of people across the world, from both developed and developing countries. We can demonstrate to world leaders that people of faith want to see, and are willing to support, change.

“We can lead by example, and let world leaders know they have a mandate for bold, ambitious decision-making at COP28.”

The delegation of 30 includes Cardinal Pietro Parolin, representing Pope Francis, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, and Hindu leaders, and representatives of other faith traditions. The Primate of Central America, the Most Revd Julio Murray, was representing the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Together, the leaders signed an appeal to political leaders at COP28 to take meaningful action to combat climate change. Each walked a path representing the Equator, and took part in the planting of a native ghaf tree, before signing the document.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the president-designate of COP28, which is to be held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December, told the gathering at the conclusion of the ceremony: “Your collective faiths continue to inspire all people to live in harmony with nature and to act to protect our fragile world. And, together, you have made a powerful statement of intent that the world needs to live — a statement of urgency, a statement of unity, solidarity, responsibility, and hope that can only help the collective drive for transformation and climate change.”

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