Religions take a bold step towards a low-carbon future

Nov 3, 2009

Windsor, UK - Nine of the world’s major religions today announced new, concrete actions to tackle climate change at a summit organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the non-profit group Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and HRH The Prince Philip, who hosted the unique gathering at his Windsor Castle home.

Representatives of the leading religious institutions committed to more than 30 ambitious multi-year plans across the nine faiths designed to help religions reduce their carbon footprint, including redirecting investments into energy-efficient projects, and greening their followers’ consumer preferences. The Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Daoist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto and Sikh faiths are among those participating.

“The world’s faith communities are among the oldest and most enduring of institutions,” said Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, when addressing the audience in the Windsor Castle. “You can establish green religious buildings. Invest ethically in sustainable products. Purchase only environmentally friendly goods. You can set an example for the lifestyle of billions of people.”

“Your practical commitments can encourage political leaders to act more courageously in protecting people and the planet,” added Ban Ki-moon.

“Religions own up to eight percent of the world’s habitable land and five percent of commercial forests, run or contribute to more than half of the world’s schools, account for up to seven percent of all global investments and offer moral and spiritual guidance to approximately 85 percent of all people,” said Olav Kjorven, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of Bureau for Development Policy, UNDP. “Their active engagement on climate change is crucial if we are to realize a greener future for our planet, and the United Nations is very proud to support what could spark the largest civil society movement in history.”

A variety of practical commitments were tabled in Windsor today. Leading members of the Sikh faith announced plans to equip their temples and kitchens with environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient building materials, a vital investment considering their kitchens in India feed 30 million people every day. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, speaking on behalf of some 200 Muslim leaders and scholars from Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco, Indonesia, Senegal and Turkey, introduced an initiative which aims to green major Islamic cities. The Jewish, Sikh and Hindu plans call for new faith-based eco-labelling systems, for food, building materials and energy. Lutheran delegates from Tanzania pledged to plant 8.5 million trees around Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa as part of their long-term plan to tackle climate change, while Daoist representatives announced their commitment to install solar power in their 1,500 temples across China. All religions set out plans to introduce extensive environmental education programmes: with around half of the world’s schools associated with the faiths, the combined plans aim at generational change on a global scale.

“For decades the watchword in the environmental movement has been sustainability. Yet it is only recently that the same movement has begun to realise that the most sustainable organisations and communities in the world are the major religions,” said Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the ARC.

"For they have seen us through famines, droughts, floods and warfare, and they have given us abundant hope, glimpses of glory and a sense of purpose which has inspired countless millions. This is why, if the future lies, as we believe, with civil society, the lead that can be given by the largest sector - the major faiths - is not only crucial, it could be our best hope ever."

Contact information

Stanislav Saling, Tel.: +1 917 213-0671,

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's message to religious leaders

Seven Year Plans of Action on Climate Change:

  • Bahai
  • Buddhist
  • Daoist
  • Christian churches
  • Hindu
  • Jewish
  • Muslim
  • Shinto
  • Sikh

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