UN celebrates Muslim Seven Year EcoPlan
July 8, 2009:
|"The fact that you, the Muslim world, are deciding to take a stand and, most importantly, making commitments for real action, and that other faiths are doing the same is by far the biggest news story of 2009 as far as climate change is concerned. It is the biggest mobilization of people and communities that we have ever seen on this issue. You are exercising real leadership, so sorely missed for so long in the negotiations, and bringing a “we can do it”, or dare I say “yes we can” mentality to the global scene. "
This speech was given by Assistant Secretary General of the UN Development Programme, Olav Kjorven, at the historic and unprecedented meeting in Istanbul from July 5-7, when some 200 Muslim scholars, representatives of Islamic civil society organisations, and representatives of Environment Ministries in Islamic countries from Morocco to Indonesia to Kuwait endorsed a long-term Muslim Plan of action on Climate Change
The Holy Quran says: “It is God who has made for you the Earth,” and “who has made the earth your couch and the heavens your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens; and brought forth therewith fruits for your sustenance.”
It is a great honor for the United Nations and for me to take part in this truly historic and unprecedented event. For the first time, leading Muslim muftis and imams, scholars and intellectuals, environmental experts, political leaders and civil society groups across all of Islam are getting together to discuss an Islamic agenda for action to combat climate change and environmental degradation.
The issue is urgent. The world is faced with a crisis. It is a global crisis, but with consequences locally, for real people and communities everywhere. The poor are particularly vulnerable. We have very limited time to act if we are to stave off dangerous consequences. The threat manifests itself in Muslim countries as well as in all other parts of the world: Increasing water scarcity, droughts and floods, land degradation.
And yet, governments are having a hard time finding a way forward, and especially to reach agreement on ways to cut emissions and address the crisis. They argue about who should pay and how much. In a sense, the negotiations are beset by a scarcity mentality. Nobody wants to pay the price. This has been going on for a long time now. Even decades. Now, Copenhagen is coming up and the planet itself hangs in the balance. But will governments and politicians rise to the occasion and agree on a rescue?
I certainly hope so, but I am convinced that you can make a big difference! You can and must help. You are needed, now. Help the UN in helping governments to seal the deal.
Why are the religions so important?
Let me point to three main reasons. First, the vast majority of people around the world adhere to one religion or other. They listen to what tradition and religious leaders have to say about spiritual as well as societal affairs. And by and large people try to follow such guidance.
Secondly, the religions are a major actor in society, including in economic and social affairs. For example, religious institutions own 7-8 percent of all land on the planet. Together they constitute a big player in the global financial market, with big investment portfolios. They run more than half of all schools, and literally tens of thousands of news outlets. What religions do or don’t do with their assets matter a lot.
Thirdly, religions are tremendous sources of inspiration and can help energize people and communities for action through religious celebration and service.
Abundance Mentality vs Scarcity Mentality
I mentioned the scarcity mentality in global climate change negotiations. It is somewhat inevitable of course. But consider what the religions are now doing. It is exactly the opposite! They are formulating plans and commitments, with immeasurable value, without asking anything in return or demanding that others do something first. This is an abundance mentality, and how refreshing it is! Because you believe that all things created come from a generous and merciful God, you believe in an abundance of possibilities when we work in accordance with His laws and His wisdom. You believe that big transformations are possible, as the spread of Islam showed: complete transformations of entire societies.
Now we indeed see a global mobilization on climate change across all the major faiths of the world. This is historic and unprecedented. It is already causing significant attention, and may it cause a more positive abundance spirit to infiltrate the negotiations. The meeting of world religious leaders at Windsor Castle in England in November will be a key event where the multiyear plans of all the faiths will be presented and celebrated.
But the religions are not doing this only or mainly because of Copenhagen coming up. You have a longer time perspective. Take the Sikhs, who have recently entered into a 300 year cycle dedicated to the environment. Indeed, dynasties come and go. Governments come and go. Maybe even the UN will one day be history? But Islam remains. Daoism remains. Buddhism remains. Christianity remains. You carry the tradition and help guide humanity through good times and bad, and help us interpret challenges as they emerge, based on an awareness that goes deep and far back. And what you decide today or this year on climate change will be carried forward, in different ways, from generation to generation.
Let me give you some examples: In China, the Daoists are committing to installing solar energy on their temples and moving forward on energy efficiency and reforestation. The Sikhs have committed themselves to promoting sustainable food production, of greening their temples and carrying out public advocacy through media outlets. In the United States, the Evangelicals and the Catholics are both reexamining life style implications of climate change, in particular the high carbon consumption pattern.
And I am really deeply impressed and full of hope because of what is happening within Islam, happening here today. In the Muslim Seven Year Plan we see so many examples of things that are truly astonishing and that can lead to enormous change within Muslim societies and the world at large: Greening of the Hajj, standards and labels for paper and other products; environmental taxes, greening transportation, greening of Mosques and other buildings, greening constitutions and greening education at all levels. This is fantastic.
Let me congratulate you, but also challenge you: Try to go as far as you can in thinking of ways to mobilize your societies towards a low carbon future, a low carbon lifestyle. Think big! For example, it would be great if you could consider establishing an Islamic standard or code for energy efficiency, covering appliances, buildings and transport.
Fundamentally, we need to make the connection between low carbon and respect and care for God’s creation, that faith implies low carbon! Why? Because high carbon is wasteful and Allah loves not the wasters as is stated in the holy Quran. High carbon hurts innocent humans and all of humanity, and hurts Creation itself.
Our high carbon economic model is doing damage now and will do more harm in coming years. It is therefore also of crucial importance to ensure that policies and initiatives are put in place to protect the vulnerable from the unavoidable impacts. I am talking about poor communities in dry, water scarce areas, areas vulnerable to flooding, people living in small island states, etc. This appeals directly to the call from God to show mercy, to care for the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the most innocent of all—the yet unborn: the coming generations.
The fact that you, the Muslim world, are deciding to take a stand and, most importantly, making commitments for real action, and that other faiths are doing the same is by far the biggest news story of 2009 as far as climate change is concerned. It is the biggest mobilization of people and communities that we have ever seen on this issue. You are exercising real leadership, so sorely missed for so long in the negotiations, and bringing a “we can do it”, or dare I say “yes we can” mentality to the global scene. We in the UN are deeply impressed and delighted that this is happening. It is “just in time” because there is so little time to lose. The planet needs strong action and fast.
The Importance of the Windsor Event
By Windsor in November, let it be heard loud and clear from the roof tops, the mosques, the churches, the temples all over the world that humanity must follow a better path, a path that honors God’s creation, a path of respect towards all life. With your help, may man learn to make peace with nature.
“For it is God who has made for you the Earth.”
The Istanbul Declaration of the M7YAP on Climate Change
Some 200 scholars and leaders endorse the Muslim 7YP
The draft Muslim Seven Year Plan to Protect the Natural
The Seventh Annual Dialogue
between the Islamic world and Japan, in March 2009 in Kuwait. The Istanbul Conference was the next stage in the process.