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One Planet Living Event 20 June, 2019

20 June 2019

One Planet Living Event 20 June, 2019

Welcome Remarks by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches


Dear friends and colleagues, I would like to warmly welcome you all to the Ecumenical Centre, the headquarters of the World Council of Churches (WCC) – a fellowship of 350 churches from around the world, representing over 500 million Christians – and the future site of the Green Village.

The WCC has had the honour to work with professional partners who have heard us speak from the heart of our vision for this site, from our faith-rooted conviction to care for God's wondrous creation. Sustainability principles, landscaping, the idea of buildings grouped like a “village,” a place for meetings and dialogue - WCC's vision for this site in 2012 mentions all of these. It is with the efforts and skill of Implenia, our architects (LRS architects, Group 8, and Dl-a Designlab architecture), Geneva's urban planning department, our Commune of Grand-Saconnex and the many others who have worked with us, and listened, that we see our values and commitments taking form in the Green Village.

This evening, our theme is climate change and environmental challenges, and how we can use all kinds of means, and particularly those related to infrastructure, buildings, investments, energy consumption for heating etc - to make a real difference in development projects, but also specifically  here, for WCC, for its sister organisations and for tenants and for future building owners.  We welcome all of goodwill here today who are addressing these challenges in many ways.

Concerning the matter of possible future owners on this site, it is also my honour to welcome here this evening visitors particularly interested in the first Green Village building, which is launched to market this week. Our first new building is named “Montreal”, after the city of the universally ratified treaty protecting the ozone layer.  It will be a residential building, planned with zero-carbon heating and cooling, and benefiting from solar panels in a microgrid; Montreal is a building which will lead the way with a visible commitment to sustainability. Other speakers here this evening will tell you more about this residence and its design. Our Montreal guests are most welcome.

The WCC has been addressing ecological concerns since the 1970s – and working on climate change as early as the 1980s – way before it was fashionable to do so. Many of us here are familiar with the concept of “sustainability”. Today we hear it all the time, e.g. sustainable development, SDGs, etc. But did you know that that the ecumenical fellowship helped to catapult the term into international prominence?

It was at a WCC Church and Society Conference on Science and Technology for Human Development held in Bucharest in 1974 linked with a UN Conference on World Population – at that moment scientists, economists and policymakers were debating a Club of Rome report entitled “Limits to Growth” – that the WCC began to use and grapple with the term “sustainable”. The meeting declared: "The goal must be a robust, sustainable society”.

Churches discussed that “justice and participation are certainly important but if a society destroys its natural base so that it cannot survive, these virtues by themselves are radically insufficient”. Thus the 1975 Assembly of the WCC in Nairobi already called for a “Just, Participatory and Sustainable Society”.

During the 1980s the WCC established the work on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, which also championed work on the environment.

These are historical notes - and important ones.

The WCC has engaged with and supported many of the environmental protocols, and we have chosen with Implenia to name the Green Village buildings after cities in which landmark agreements were reached.

For instance, it was during the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which resulted, among many achievements, in an agreement to hold climate change conventions, that the WCC began to prioritise climate change as the defining ecological issue of our time. The WCC has participated in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which governs global climate negotiations, bearing the distinction of being the only faith-based actor present at all of the Conferences of Parties (COPs), from COP1 in 1995 in Berlin, Germany to COP 24 in Katowice, Poland.

The WCC pushed for the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 – a ground-breaking global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change – as well as for the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Notwithstanding these signs of hope at the global level, the latest (2018) report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on 1.5 degree Celsius warming raises alarm bells. Nothing less than a bold and major shift from a fossil fuel-driven and growth-obsessed economic model to one based on renewable energy and a circular and holistic understanding of economic life is needed. Doubtless, value- based, ethical and religious forces can and ought to spur such a transition. Not only through theological reflection and education, advocacy for ecologically-just just agreements and policies, but also in our daily operations as institutions. We must bear witness to our principles, particularly when there is the opportunity to plan for the future.

In 2014, the WCC ruled out investments in fossil fuels.

In 2016, the WCC became a Blue Community, affirming the human right to water, saying “no” to bottled water and the privatisation of water facilities.

The WCC promotes living in accordance with the covenant with God and creation; supporting just and sustainable consumption, life-giving agriculture and encouraging economies that promote life.

With care for creation as guiding principle for our work, WCC learned of the One Planet Living Sustainability framework, developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Implenia. Together with its partners, WCC has been working towards an application for this new label and certification. This is part of our commitment for Green Village and for the future; it will represent a challenge. We approach that challenge with hope for the future.  We are pleased to welcome WWF to the Ecumenical Centre this evening, and you will soon hear much more about One Planet Living  directly from WWF’s director for communities and projects for nature, Ms Catherine Martinson.

Let me formulate our hopes. May the Green Village be a place of contribution towards safeguarding our planet’s future: in its construction, in its operating life as a facility, and through the care and endeavours of those who will live here, or work here, forming the  local community.


Thank you!