Islamic leaders issue bold call for rapid phase out of fossil fuels

by Arthur Nelson,
first published on The Guardian

Islamic leaders have issued a powerful call to 1.6bn Muslims around the world to work towards phasing out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 100% renewable energy strategy.

The grand mufti’s of Lebanon and Uganda endorsed the Islamic declaration on climate change, along with prominent Islamic scholars and teachers from 20 countries, at a meeting in Istanbul.

Their collective statement makes several detailed political demands likely to increase pressure on Gulf states ahead of the Paris climate summit in December.

Islamic leaders launch climate change declaration in Istanbul. Photograph: Islamic Relief

It calls for oil-producing countries and rich nations to lead by example in phasing out fossil fuels “as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century”.

Clear emissions reductions targets and monitoring systems should be agreed in Paris, the statement says, along with “generous financial and technical support” for poorer countries to help wean them off fossil fuels.

So far, Morocco is the only Middle Eastern country to present an emissions-cutting climate pledge ahead of the summit. But Hakima el-Haite, the country’s environment minister said that the declaration could help to change current modes of thought and behaviour around climate change in some Gulf states.

“It is an emotive call for a spiritual fight against climate change that will be very important for Muslims,” she told the Guardian. “It speaks to issues of fairness, accountability, differentiation and adaptation in the Paris agreement. I think that the right way to make this sort of call is through the Qur’an.”

The Istanbul declaration was made by Islamic figures from Bosnia to Indonesia and follows a ground-breaking Papal encyclical last month. Heads of state, corporations, and all peoples are addressed in the Istanbul call, which carries a universal and startlingly bleak message.

“We are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet,” the declaration says. “This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost.”

“What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy?” the religious leaders ask. “How will we face our Lord and Creator?”

Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council which represents 210 million Muslims welcomed the statement, saying: “The climate crisis needs to be tackled through collaborative efforts, so let’s work together for a better world for our children, and our children’s children.”

The United Nations’ climate chief, Christiana Figueres said that the statement showed how a clean energy future rested on a shift in how the world’s environment and people were valued. “Islam’s teachings, which emphasize the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher’s role as an appointed guide, illuminate pathways to take the right action on climate change,” she said.

The declaration on climate change was also welcomed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, “with great joy, and in a spirit of solidarity”. Turkson pledged that the Catholic Church would work with the declaration’s authors to protect their common earthly home.

This article is republished on Medium as part of Climate Desk, a collaboration between The Guardian, where it first appeared, The Atlantic, CityLab, Grist, The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Reveal, Slate and WIRED. Originally published on August 18, 2015.

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