Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

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The International Islamic Climate Change Symposium was held in Istanbul in mid-November 2014 to discuss a draft “Islamic Declaration on Climate Change” which has now been published.  The Declaration clearly states that global climate change is “human-induced” and goes on to state the following:

Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet.

This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost. As we humans are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour. But the same fossil fuels that helped us achieve most of the prosperity we see today are the main cause of climate change. Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God, whom we know as Allah – gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans. But our attitude to these gifts has been short-sighted, and we have abused them. What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy? How will we face our Lord and Creator?

Further, the Declaration states that:

  • Ecosystems and human cultures are already at risk from climate change;
  • Risks resulting from climate change caused by extreme events such as heat waves, extreme precipitation and coastal flooding are on the rise;
  • These risks are unevenly distributed, and are generally greater for the poor and disadvantaged communities of every country, at all levels of development;
  • Foreseeable impacts will affect adversely Earth’s biodiversity, the goods and services provided by our ecosystems, and our overall global economy;
  • The Earth’s core physical systems themselves are at risk of abrupt and irreversible changes.

 We are driven to conclude from these warnings that there are serious flaws in the way we have used natural resources – the sources of life on Earth. An urgent and radical reappraisal is called for. Humankind cannot afford the slow progress we have seen in all the COP (Conference of Parties – climate change negotiations) processes since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was published in 2005, or the present deadlock.

The Declaration then calls upon the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol which will take place in Paris in December 2015 “to bring their discussions to an equitable and binding conclusion….”

It goes further to call on “well-off nations and oil-producing states” to do the following:

  • Lead the way in phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century;
  • Provide generous financial and technical support to the less well-off to achieve a phase-out of greenhouse gases as early as possible;
  • Recognize the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources;
  • Stay within the ‘2 degree’ limit, or, preferably, within the ‘1.5 degree’ limit, bearing in mind that two-thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground;
  • Re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world’s poor.
  • Invest in the creation of a green economy.

 And it calls on “corporations, finance, and the business sector” to:

  • Shoulder the consequences of their profit-making activities, and take a visibly more active role in reducing their carbon footprint and other forms of impact upon the natural environment;
  • In order to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities, commit themselves to 100 % renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible and shift investments into renewable energy;
  • Change from the current business model which is based on an unsustainable escalating economy, and to adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable;
  • Pay more heed to social and ecological responsibilities, particularly to the extent that they extract and utilize scarce resources;
  • Assist in the divestment from the fossil fuel driven economy and the scaling up of renewable energy and other ecological alternatives.

As with the Encyclical issued in May by Pope Francis, the “Islamic Declaration on Climate Change” grounds its arguments in both science and religious doctrine.  It will be interesting to see if these statements of concern and policy from religious leaders and scholars will affect the outcome of the meeting in Paris in December and/or the domestic policies of oil-producing and oil-consuming states.

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Sarah Cox
Foreign, International, and Comparative Law Librarian,UConn Law

Sarah Cox is the foreign, international and comparative law subject specialist in the Law Library.  She is the primary library liaison for the LL.Ms in the U.S. Legal Studies program, for the members of Connecticut Journal of International Law and the other J.D.s who take foreign and international law courses, as well as carrying out regular reference department duties.  Sarah received her J.D. from UCONN Law, her Masters in Library and Information Studies and a Certificate in Bibliography from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a B.A. and M.A. in European History.