Ecumenical groups and others demonstrate at the 2017 UN climate conference COP23. Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

Ecumenical groups and others demonstrate at the 2017 UN climate conference COP23. Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

The World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), ACT Alliance and the German Protestant development service Bread for the World are appealing to world leaders to take swift and coordinated action to limit global warming to 1.5°C degrees as a humanitarian and ethical obligation.

“As faith-based organizations we are very concerned that marginalized, vulnerable, and poor people are affected by climate change impacts that are increasingly exposing them to emergencies and humanitarian crises,” the four organizations warn in a 60-page publication, “Limiting Global Warming,” released today, just a couple of weeks before the 4-12 December climate conference in Katowice, Poland.

Reiterating their sustained advocacy on climate change at the annual United Nations’ conferences and other fora, the four organizations insist sound financial, technological and political solutions are possible. “If we fail to address climate change and to increase efforts to protect the affected communities now, we will bear the incalculable risks to future generations,” they state in the publication’s preface.

On the other hand, they argue that increased efforts towards protecting the poorest and most vulnerable to climate change will be a significant step toward ensuring future generations are protected.

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary, said that the research is “important” in that it “focuses on those living with vulnerabilities and in impoverishment which is decidedly a Christian lens.” Further, its conclusions reinforce the urgent appeal “to enact changes now and with conviction – that is, radically reshape our economic life – to safeguard God’s most sacred gift of life.”

“Limiting Global Warming” was written by a team of climate experts and development practitioners from Africa, Europe and Oceania, who studied scientific literature and grassroots reports.

It states that the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed the convictions of partners and members of groups in the Global South that every tenth of a degree Celsius temperature rise profoundly affects their lives and livelihoods.

Despite the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global warming at 1.5°C, the world is “off-track,” the authors maintain, adding that overshooting the goal would “severely jeopardize” the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The publication identifies Small Island Developing States, Least Developing States, South Asia, Southern Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Central America and Northeast Brazil as climate change “hot spots”.

If global temperatures rise above 1.5°C, agriculture, water health, coastal communities and cities, marine and tropical marine and (coral) ecosystems are most at risk. There would be heatwaves, erratic rainfall, storms, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

“This is not the future we want,” the authors write, urging countries to “fulfill their responsibilities and ratchet up their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) now.”

“Limiting Global Warming” recommends deep and fast reductions in Co2 emissions; multilateral cooperation; shifting investments to “green” or sustainable ones; addressing equity justice and climate justice to overcome the root causes of vulnerability; sustainable consumption; low population growth; and low energy and food demands.

Learn more about the WCC's work on Care for Creation and Climate Justice