Christian organizations worldwide no longer sit on the sidelines during climate change discussions. Rather, they actively engage in talks and global warming campaigns.
Faith-based activists are among 10,000 participants at the biggest-ever climate change conference which opened Monday in Bali, Indonesia, according to The Associated Press.
Delegates, governments and journalists from nearly 190 countries gathered on the resort island for two weeks of U.N.-led talks with hopes of initiating negotiations on a deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The protocol expires at the end of 2012 and requires signatories to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels.
Among the early signs of hope at the conference was Australia's pledge on Monday to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
U.K.-based Tearfund, a Christian humanitarian and development charity, joined other climate change activists in applauding Australia and its new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for the bold move.
Ben Thurley, Advocacy Co-ordinator for TEAR Australia, said in a statement he was "thrilled that the first act of our new Prime Minister was action on Kyoto."
"I hope it signals a new era in climate change negotiations and that Australia will now take more of a lead in the right direction," he added.
Human rights group Christian Aid U.K., currently attending the Bali conference, also applauded Australia's pledge to join the Kyoto Protocol.
Australia's decision to join leaves the United States as the only developed nation that has not signed the pact.
The Kyoto Protocol was signed by over 150 countries and called for reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases in absolute terms, but only by developing nations.
Besides a new framework to succeed the protocol, another key goal at the conference is to draw the United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, into the process.
Washington resisted from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that mandatory cuts in emission would harm the economy and questioning the accuracy of global warming science.
Yet after a recent landmark report by the Nobel Peace-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Bush administration has signaled its willingness to be more active in negotiations. The IPCC concluded that global warming is "unequivocal" and the world will suffer catastrophic natural disasters if the international community fails to respond.
Among the most contentious issue for a new framework is whether emission cuts should be mandatory or voluntary, which the United States favors.
Although the U.S. government continues to waver on mandatory emission reductions, many leading American evangelicals and Christian organizations are calling for emission cuts.
Signers of the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) – which includes Rick Warren, author of the The Purpose Driven Life; Leith Anderson, senior pastor of Wooddale Church in St. Paul, Minn. and president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago – are among over 100 evangelical leaders who agree that global warming is real and mainly caused by human activities.
ECI signers call for the federal government to pass and implement national legislation requiring economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
"Love of God, love of neighbor, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action," the ECI statement reads.
A recent poll by Ellison Research found that 84 percent of evangelicals support legislation to reduce global warming pollution levels. The poll also found that 54 percent of evangelicals are more likely to support a candidate that works on the issue.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali will conclude next week on Dec. 14.