Leading Muslim clerics urge action on climate change

Leading Muslim clerics urge action on climate change
Muslim scholars, clerices and environmental advocates from 20 countries gathered in Turkey's Istanbul on Tuesday and called for a global phase-out of greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.
2 min read
19 August, 2015
The burning of fossil fuels is a main cause of climate change [AFP]

Muslim scholars and environmental advocates from about 20 countries gathered in Istanbul on Tuesday and called for a global phase-out of greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, in what was described as the first declaration of its kind from Islamic leaders.

About 60 delegates including leading clerics from Indonesia, Uganda, Lebanon and Bosnia adopted the declaration at the end of the seminar that was held in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Muslim scholars added their voice to a chorus of religious leaders from around the world who have been urging the world to take strong action against global warming.

The move comes two months after Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change and other environmental issues and ahead of a key UN climate conference in Paris in December, where world leaders are supposed to adopt a landmark agreement to fight climate change.

"I think this declaration will incentivise ambitious actions and spur the Muslim world, especially the oil producing countries," said Mohamed Adow, a Kenyan advocate for climate action who attended the seminar.

Organisers said the declaration was "in harmony" with the pope's message and supported by the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace.

However, some influential Islamic leaders were absent, including Turkey's top cleric, who did not even send a representative.

It remains to be seen whether the message from the scholars is repeated by imams in mosques across the Muslim world.

"Some of them are hopelessly out of touch on this," said Fazlun Khalid of the Britain-based Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, which organized the conference together with the Islamic Relief charity.

The declaration urged rich countries and oil-producing states to lead the way in phasing out greenhouse gas emissions "no later than the middle of the century." The burning of oil, coal and gas is the main source of such emissions.

Climate activists are calling for a zero emissions goal to be included in the Paris agreement but face resistance from major oil-producing countries, including in the Middle East.

Last year a Saudi representative at UN climate talks in Lima told the Associated Press that it is unrealistic to expect a phase-out of fossil fuels in the near term, given the rapidly growing energy demands in the developing world.

"It's not something that has great support in the Arab world," said Saleemul Huq of the International Institute of Environment and Development in London. "We are trying to move the needle in the other direction and persuade the Saudis that it is the right thing."