Faith leaders say moral duty to tackle climate change

LONDON (Reuters) - Leaders of every major faith in Britain have called for governments to secure a climate change deal in Copenhagen, saying it was “morally imperative” to tackle the causes of global warming which most affected the poor.

In the first statement of its kind, faith community leaders including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist, called on Thursday for the British and G20 governments in particular to fight for an ambitious deal.

They called for measures which would help keep global temperature rises to within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, by reducing reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

“Faith communities have a crucial role to play in pressing for changes in behaviour at every level of society and in every economic sector,” the joint statement said.

“We recognise unequivocally that there is a moral imperative to tackle the causes of global warning. This is reinforced by the reality that it is the poor and vulnerable who are most profoundly affected.”

They pledged to work together to raise awareness about the effects of “catastrophic climate change,” including droughts, floods, water shortage and rising sea levels, and pressed for changes in behaviour.

World leaders will meet at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen in December to discuss expanding or replacing the Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase ends in 2012, amid dire warnings about the possible consequences of failure.

British government ministers warned earlier this month that a possible global average temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius on pre-industrial levels, possibly reached by 2100 or earlier, could result in wars over water and food and mass migration.

Britain was the first country to set legally-binding emissions targets. It wants to cut its output of planet-warming gases by 34 percent by 2020, from 1990 levels, through cleaner transport and more energy efficient homes and workplaces.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband, told the “Faith and the Environment” meeting at Lambeth Palace, in London, said: “Tackling climate change is a cause that unites people of all faiths. We need the voice of all the world’s religions as we approach the Copenhagen summit.”

The Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed churches of Britain issued a separate statement on Thursday in which they called on European leaders, currently meeting in Brussels, to agree to cuts of at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, without extensive use of carbon offsets.

“Developed nations have benefited most from cheap fossil fuels and we must now lead on developing low carbon futures for all,” Martyn Atkins, general secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain, said in a joint statement.

Talks ahead of Copenhagen are split on how big carbon cuts rich nations should make by 2020, and how much they should pay developing countries to prepare for and slow global warming.

The European Commission estimates developing countries will need about 100 billion euros annually by 2020 to tackle climate change.

Editing by Michael Holden