U.K. Faith Leaders Release Landmark Statement on Climate Change

U.K. faith leaders issued a first-of-its-kind statement on climate change Thursday in which the signatories recognized "unequivocally that there is a moral imperative to tackle the causes of global warming."

"This," they stated, "is reinforced by the reality that it is the poor and vulnerable who are most profoundly affected by the environmental impact of climate change - especially drought, floods, water shortages and rise in sea levels.

"Faith communities have a crucial role to play in pressing for changes in behavior at every level of society and in every economic sector. We all have a responsibility to learn how to live and develop sustainably in a world of finite resources," the leaders added.

The interfaith statement, released 40 days ahead of the highly-anticipated Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, was the result of a meeting of leaders from every faith community hosted by the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams.

Williams, who is also the highest official in the Church of England, called Thursday's meeting "important" and "the first of its kind in the UK."

Among the faiths represented were Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Baha'i, Jain and Zoastrian.

"We all have to do more to face the challenges of climate change," Williams commented immediately following the meeting. "Faith communities have a crucial role to play. That was highlighted today as were some of the things already being done. We must do our bit and encourage others to do theirs. Together we can and we will make a difference."

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2009 is a crucial year in the international effort to address climate change as some scientists say industrialized nations must cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent climate disasters, such as coastal flooding from rising sea levels, severe weather events, and variations in rainfall and temperatures that will affect agriculture and wipe out species of plants and animals.

Under the current Kyoto Protocol deal, 37 industrial countries are required to cut emissions a total 5 percent from 1990 by 2012. Based on the current declarations from wealthy countries, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature estimates the total emissions cut will amount to 10 percent by 2020.

In December, national government delegations who agreed to shape an ambitious international response to climate change in 2007 will be meeting in Copenhagen to agree on a post-2012 climate agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol.

In their statement Thursday, faith leaders called for the U.K. government and G-20 governments in particular to fight for an ambitious deal that offers hope of rises in global temperature being kept within two degrees centigrade.

"We call upon [them] to fight for a deal which speedily ends unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels and puts in place urgent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that global temperature rise may be kept within two degrees centigrade," they stated.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is slated for Dec. 7-18.