Press Release 17 April

EMBARGOED UNTIL: 12pm EDT,  4pm GMT, 6pm CET on 17th April 2016

Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders Signed by 270  Religious Leaders to be Launched in New York on 18th April 2016

Four days before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon hosts a signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on climate change adopted by UN negotiators in Paris on 12 December, an Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders from 270 religious leaders (full text in Annex below and at www.interfaithstatement2016.org) supporting this pact while also urging much more ambitious action will be handed over to the President of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft at a high-level event on 18 April. (Location: Chapel of the Church Center for the UN, 777 Dag Hammarskold Plaza).

Eminent signatories (full list in Annex below) include: Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences of the Holy See,  Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches, Swami Aginivesh, Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen,  Grand Imam Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad, Sister Jayanti Kirplani, Priestess Beatriz Schulthess and Sheikh Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. 

Click here for the full list of signatories

In addition to the high level signatures, the Statement is supported by 4,639 individuals and 86 groups from all over the world who have shown their support online by using the hashtag #Faiths4ParisAgreement.

The handover will take place between 11am and 12pm EDT (GMT 3-4pm) in the chapel of the Church Center for the UN, East 45th St and 1st Avenue, New York and be immediately followed by a press conference at  the same location, featuring all the speakers at the event. A press release reporting highlights of the handover ceremony and subsequent media briefing will be issued as from 1pm EDT (GMT 5pm). Program details are given below this release.

The Statement supports the full and ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement and of all other decisions adopted at the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) last December (www.unfccc.int). The Statement also reaffirms the faith community’s support for more ambitious climate action - including the swift phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, accelerating the transition to 100% renewable energy - as well as for the commitment in the Agreement to ´pursue efforts´ to  limit the global temperature rise to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

“The planet has already passed safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Unless these levels are rapidly reduced, we risk creating irreversible impacts putting hundreds of millions of lives, of all species, at severe risk” the Statement´s initial section warns.

Both the Statement and the 18th April event serve to renew the strong commitment of the faith community to remain active in defining humanity´s moral responsibility to care for the Earth, as so powerfully stated in the Pope’s Encyclical, as well as in climate change statements by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh and other faith leaders.

Archbishop John Ribat, President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops´ Conferences of Oceania said “we are heartened by the growing international concern about climate change and global warming. The protection of the atmosphere and the oceans are powerful examples of the need for political representatives and leaders of nations to take responsibility for the wellbeing of peoples beyond their own particular shores or borders.  In some cases, entire regions and nations are under threat from the indisputable fact of rising sea levels."

“The environment has been damaged primarily by human beings. It is human karma that we suffer as a result of our irresponsible selfish actions. It is our chance to be really responsible for our action with sincere reflection and wholesome action to the earth with a kind compassionate mindful-heart, said Ven. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, President of the Buddhist Council of New York

“The environmental crisis is ultimately a crisis of the heart. The more we are disconnected from one another and from God, the more we are disconnected from Mother Earth. We must therefore strive to re-establish our relationship with the earth. To see the rivers, plants, animals and trees with equal vision - understanding that their is no hierarchy, that all life is sacred. By doing so we can begin the journey of restoring love and beauty to the world,” according to His Holiness Radhanath Swami, International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

The Rev. Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation stated “climate change is the daily reality of people and communities who struggle to cope with adverse impacts of extreme weather events. It is neither abstract nor theoretical but rather a struggle for justice between people living in different places and between generations. Faith-based communities play a major role in advocating for a conversion of hearts and minds in order to bring about the necessary lifestyle changes to meet the effects of climate change. In addition they help us redefine and understand anew what matters most in life, now and in the future."

 

### ENDS ###

NOTES FOR EDITORS

 Other Quotes

  • “Climate change is a moral issue. Investing in and extracting fossil fuels is a moral issue. In all the world’s great spiritual traditions we find common ground in our compassionate defence of climate justice. Caring for the Earth is our shared responsibility. It is up to us, as spiritual leaders, to raise our voice, to protect the most vulnerable, and to protect our precious home and all species who share it with us.” Sister True Dedication, Plum Village International Community of Engaged Buddhists.

  • “Custodianship for the environment is a sacred duty recognized in Al-Islam, as with other religions and ways of life. We of the Muslim community stand in solidarity with all people seeking to honor and protect the earth from whence we were created, and its life in all forms.” Imam Al- Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, Deputy Amir (Vice President) of The Muslim Alliance in North America

  • “Climate action is the defining opportunity for our present time. We see the ongoing degradation of our environment through over consumption of resources and disregard. This enhances inequity and underlines greed rather than need. Faith shapes the values and behaviours of billions of people and underscores our moral and spiritual responsibility to nurture and protect our environmental resources. People of faith must unite as leading catalysts to repair our relationship with and to secure a sustainable future for our planet. Our actions will speak louder than our words.” Kiran Bali MBE JP, Global Chairperson, United Religions Initiative

  • Links to photos will be provided at the press conference and in the press release reporting the event and will be available for download from www.interfaithstatement2016.org  

  • An introductory video about the Interfaith Statement can also be found on the website.

  • The French, Spanish and Hindi versions of the Statement are posted on the website.

 

For  More Information Contact:

  • The drafting and dissemination of  the Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders and the organization of this event is a joint collaboration between representatives of 15 organisations: ACT Alliance, Bhumi Project, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Catholic Earthcare Australia, Eco-Sikh, Elijah Interfaith Institute, Global Buddhist Climate Change Collective, Global Catholic Climate Movement, GreenFaith, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Lutheran World Federation, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhists, United Religions Initiative and World Council of Churches. Further information at www.interfaithstatement2016.org

  • This Interfaith Climate Change Statement follows on from two previous Interfaith Climate Change Statements which urged  the adoption of the Paris Agreement including: Interfaith Summit Statement, September 21st 2014 (www.interfaithclimate.org) and the Statement of Faith and Spiritual Leaders, October 20th 2015 (http://actalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/COP21_Statement_englisch2.pdf). In addition, this Statement supports the Sikh Statement on Climate Change, September 18th, 2014 www.arcworld.org/downloads/Sikh-Statement-on-Climate-Change.pdf), the Lambeth Declaration 2015 on Climate Change, June 16th 2015 (www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2015/06/archbishop-of-canterbury-join-faith-leaders-in-call-for-urgent-action-to-tackle-climate-change.aspx), Pope Francis’s Encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, June 18th 2015 (www.w2.vatican.va), the Islamic Climate Change Declaration, August 18th 2015 (www.islamicclimatedeclaration.org) which will be presented again on April 22 2016 to the President of the UN General Assembly, H.E Mr. Mogens Lykketoft , the Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders, October 29th 2015 and was handed to Pres. Hollande on Dec 10th 2015 at the Elysee Palace, as part of an interfaith meeting (www.gbccc.org) and the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change, November 23th 2015 (www.bhumiproject.org)

  • In addition to faith climate Statements, in 2015 over 1.8 million people worldwide put their names to a collection of faith-based petitions urging political leaders at the COP21 climate summit to take decisive action to curb climate change and deliver a strong, fair deal that helps poor countries adapt to their changing climate. The petitions were presented to the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and President Hollande on 28th November and 10th December 2015, respectively. See more information here

 

18th April 2016

INTERFAITH CLIMATE CHANGE STATEMENT TO WORLD LEADERS HANDOVER PROGRAM

Ceremony for the Formal Handover to the President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Mogens Lykketoft

VENUE:  Chapel of the Church Center of the UN, 777 UN Plaza (1st Avenue and E. 44th Street), New York 18th April 11-12pm, EDT

Program - Monday, 18th April   11am-12pm

11.00-11.05am Opening Chant: Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, President of the Buddhist Council of New York

Welcome by Moderator: Rev’d Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith

11.05- 30am: Faith Speakers

  • Kiran Bali MBE JP, Global Chairperson, United Religions Initiative

  • Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, Deputy Amir (Vice President) of The Muslim Alliance in North America

  • H.H. Radhanath Swami, Hindu, member, Board of Governors, International Society for Krishna Consciousness

  • The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, Bishop for Indigenous Peoples, Anglican Church of Canada

  • Sister Gayatri,  Representative to the UN in New York of the Brahma Kumaris

  • Tomas Insua, founding Global Coordinator, Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM)

 

11.30-11.32am: Zoroastrian prayer. Mr. Homi Gandhi, President Elect, Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America

11.32-11.37am: Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in New York: His Excellency Mr. François Delattre

11.37-11.42am: Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations in New York: His Excellency Mr.Omar Hilale

11.42-11.47am Director for Strategy, Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Mr. Halldór Thorgeirsson

11.47-11.55am: Official Handover of the Statement to His Excellency Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft,   President of  the  UN General Assembly  and his statement

11.55-11.57: Sikh Prayer Song: Dr. Rajwant Singh, Founder and President of EcoSikh

12-00pm Close

12.05-12.35pm: Press Conference (in chapel)


PRESS CONFERENCE- Starts: 12.05pm

Moderator: Ms. Ciara Shannon, Interfaith Climate Change Statement Coordinator, GreenFaith Asia Coordinator

Speakers:

  • His Excellency Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, The President of the UN General Assembly

  • His Excellency Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in New  York

  • His Excellency Mr. Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations in New York

  • Mr. Halldór Thorgeirsson, Director for Strategy, Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

  • Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Founder, Buddhist Global Relief  

  • Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, Deputy Amir (Vice President) of The Muslim Alliance in North America

  • H.H Radhanath Swami, Hindu, Board Member, International Society for Krishna Consciousness  

  • Bishop Mark MacDonald, President for North America, World Council of Churches. Representing WCC and ACT (Action by Churches Together)

  • Ms. Philippa Rowland, Interfaith Dialogue and Regional Leader, Catholic Earthcare Australia  

 

SPEAKER BIOS - (Event and Press Conference)

  • Event Moderator: The Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith, Episcopal Church of the United States of America. GreenFaith is an international, multi-faith environmental organization.  He coordinated the 2015 OurVoices campaign which mobilized religious support globally for COP 21, led the organizing of faith communities for the People’s Climate March (New York, September 2014) and  the widely reported Climate Change march from central Rome to St. Peter´s Square, Vatican City (28 June 2015). He also has a leading role in the faith-based fossil fuel divestment movement. Email: RevFHarper@greenfaith.org

  • Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft  is the President of the 70th United Nations General Assembly.  He was speaker of the Danish Parliament from 2011 to 2015, leader of the Social Democrat Party from 2002 to 2005 and before that Finance Minister and Foreign Minister between 1993 and 2001. He became an MP in 1981.

  • Ambassador Omar Hilale is the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations in New York since April 2014. He was previously ambassador to Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and ambassador and permanent representative of Morocco to the United Nations in Geneva. He was also Coordinator of the African Group WIPO (2004-2005), Coordinator of the African Group at the WTO (2003), President of the Conference on Disarmament (2004).

  • Ms.Kiran Bali, MBE JP, Chairperson, United Religions Initiative. Kiran is the youngest ever chairperson of the largest global interfaith organisation, operating in 94 countries. Kiran’s social entrepreneurial skills coupled with her outstanding international active leadership have promoted equity and understanding whilst addressing interfaith challenges. Kiran is one of a mere handful of young female global religious and interfaith leaders. Email: kbali@uri.org

  • Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi is an American Buddhist monk, best known as a translator of Buddhist texts from Pali to English. In 2008 he founded Buddhist Global Relief, an organization dedicated to combating chronic hunger and malnutrition. He is also a spiritual ambassador of OurVoices. Email: venbodhi@bhikkhubodhi.org

  • Mr. Tomas Insua is  Argentinian and the founding Global Coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, an international coalition of 300+ Catholic organizations that advances the Pope's call to climate action. He  is also a Fulbright Scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School and a Co-chair of the Harvard Climate Justice Caucus. Email: tomas@catholicclimatemovement.global

  • The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald became Canada's first National Indigenous Anglican Bishop in 2007.  He is also the North American President for the World Council of Churches. Email: mmacdonald@national.anglican.ca

  • Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, D. Min. is a Buddhist priest, ordained in 1980 in the 750-year-old Jodoshinshu tradition of Japanese Buddhism.  He is President of the Buddhist Council of  New York, a Vice President of the Interfaith Center of New York and Community Clergy Liaison for the NYPD. Email: nakagaki@earthlink.net

  • Sister Gayatri Naraine, Brahma Kumaris has dedicated her life to exploring the spiritual phenomenon of transformation in a world in transition. As the representative of the Brahma Kumaris at the United Nations, her focus is on connecting Sustainable Development to Human Flourishing. Gayatri was born in Guyana and currently lives in New York City. Email: gayatri.naraine@us.brahmakumaris.org

  • Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid is the religious and spiritual leader (Imam) of The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc. in Harlem, NYC.  Imam ‘Abdur-Rashid is also a President Emeritus of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, and serves as the Vice President of The Muslim Alliance in North America. Email: imamtalib@aol.com

  • Ms. Philippa Rowland, Catholic Earthcare Australia.  Interfaith Dialogue and Regional Leader. Provided scientific advice to policymakers on sustainable agriculture and environmental risk management in Australia’s Federal Bureau of Resource Sciences. Works with community and faith groups on renewable/energy efficiency solutions to climate change. Joined Catholic Earthcare Australia in 2014 and on Advisory Committees for Multifaith SA, Conservation Council of SA and the Forum of Religion and Ecology. Email: philippa.rowland@catholicearthcare.org.au

  • His Holiness Radhanath Swami is a Vaishnava sanyassin (a monk in a Krishna-bhakti lineage) and teacher of the devotional path of Bhakti-yoga. His teachings draw from the sacred texts of India such as The Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Ramayana. He is a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Email: gopal@bhumiproject.org

  • Mr. Halldór Thorgeirsson, an Icelandic national, is Director for Strategy at the UN Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, where he coordinated substantive support to the negotiations of the Paris Agreement  adopted by COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015.  He also oversees the development of the secretariat’s strategic approach to enhance the real impact of the newly established infrastructure for implementation, including the Green Climate Fund, as well as efforts to unlock the potential to reduce emissions before 2020 through enhanced cooperation and climate action. He was previously an official of the Ministry for the Environment of Iceland specialised in environmental issues.

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