Interfaith Dialogue : Faith in the Changing Climate

A session by Ministry of Environment and Forestry

Date : Tuesday, 7 November 2017
Time : 09.00 – 10.30
Venue : Indonesia Pavilion at COP 23, Bonn Zone, Bonn, Germany


Climate change and adverse weather patterns continue to be an enormous development challenge that is affecting countless communities across the globe. In the meanwhile, Earth’s resources are being consumed faster than their natural rate of replenishment. Many forms of human activity are simply unsustainable at present rates and frequently harmful to the environment. In the last five years, people of faith and their leaders have developed a religious-political identity around climate change on attaining an international climate agreement, but not, for the most part, a personal behavior/sustainable consumption identity. At same time, people recognize that post-Paris, it’s vital that local and personal commitments are a critical aspect of stabilizing the climate. One of the ways that we can address this challenge is through looking at the way we consume and produce. The initiative must link personal behavior change with higher-level system change in clear and convincing ways. People do not want to relinquish their religious-political climate identity; they want to enhance and deepen it.

To describe behavior/lifestyle change as a sensitive subject is a considerable understatement. Lifestyle conversations are emotionally fraught and politically risky. In developed countries, these conversations make people feel anxious about loss of comfort, convenience, community and identity. In developing countries, where consumption must increase to alleviate poverty and where Global North lifestyles hold great appeal, promoting a reduction in consumption can easily feel insensitive and inappropriate. There is widespread and legitimate concern that a focus on lifestyle reduces pressure for major policy advances. For these and many other reasons, engaging this topic effectively requires a grasp of research on best practices in fostering sustainable living, skilled and emotionally sensitive communications, mutually supportive relationships with policy advocates, and a distributed community of trusted leaders who can turn sustainable consumption habits into well-respected, even well-loved cultural norms.

The world’s faith communities represent one of the best opportunities to support the emergence and flourishing of such a movement at the scale needed to make a difference. In a number of high per capita consumption countries, such as the US and Australia, faith is an important part of the national fabric and wields considerable cultural influence. Across Europe and beyond, Pope Francis has reawakened the belief that faith can play a meaningful role in public life and has earned the respect of members of civil society. In India, Hinduism has supported remarkably low levels of meat consumption when compared with other cultures, even when adjusted for income and other factors. Buddhism, a major influence throughout Southeast Asia, offers an ethic of self-restraint that can support the change in consumption habits that are the focus of this proposal, along with a method – mindfulness meditation – that has become popular across the developed West. Throughout the Middle East/West Asia and North Africa, Islam is a primary cultural force and tens of millions of Muslims fast during daylight hours for a month each year during Ramadan, a remarkable commitment.

Faith traditions offer an unparalleled collection of teachings and practices that discourage materialism and undue attachment to possessions or wealth, and that encourage generosity, sharing and ethical behavior. These traditions all support customs such as fasting that affirm self-restraint as a means of spiritual growth. There is no other sector of society that, collectively, holds such wisdom and time-tested practices of implementing it in daily life as the faiths.



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