WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit at the UN climate talks. © Sean Hawkey

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit at the UN climate talks. © Sean Hawkey

“The political leaders of the world are speaking like preachers. May they continue as believers,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), as he attended the opening sessions of the UN climate talks in Paris (COP21) on 30 November.

Tveit took part of an interfaith panel promoted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) focused on theological reflections concerning the crisis of humanity in relation to nature, climate and human compassion.

“This is a moment of truth, of recognizing that something is wrong and needs to change,” Tveit continued, referring to what he perceived as a common message of hope in the world leaders’ speeches at the opening of COP21.

For Inger Andersen, the IUCN’s director general, climate change has to be seen also as a moral and ethical issue. “It is an issue of justice”, she said. “We are here with the hope to hear a unified call for action with strong emphasis on environmental stewardship,” Andersen stated.

The panel was opened with a blessing led by Imam Ibrahim Saidy from the Daru Salaam Centre, Oslo, Norway.

Besides the head executive of the WCC, the line-up of speakers included Sister Jayanti Kirplani of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Monsignor Luís Miguel Muñoz Cárdaba, a counsellor representing the Holy See at the Apostolic Nunciature to France, Fazlun Khalid, representing the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), and Barbara Maas of the International Buddhist Confederation.

Khalid and Maas emphasized the convergence processes that led to both the Global Buddhist Collective on Climate Change Declaration for COP21 and the Istanbul Islamic Declaration on Climate Change.

Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC programme executive for Care for Creation and Climate Change, summarized the spirit of the first day of COP21: “I saw ambition, responsibility and hope”, he said. "These elements were present both in the interventions of the heads of state and in the mobilizations and reflections of several actors involved in side events here in Paris", he added.

COP21 continues until 11 December. The WCC, together with several of its member churches and partners such as the Lutheran World Federation, ACT Alliance, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches, sent an ecumenical delegation to Paris to strengthen the call for a legally binding climate agreement and for the imperative that COP21 “translates human and ecological stewardship into concrete climate action, to show inter-generational responsibility, to initiate unprecedented individual, economic and structural transformation, and to pursue climate justice”, as stated in a recent declaration of the WCC Executive Committee.

Media pack of ecumenical groups at COP21

“WCC general secretary shares signs of hope on the eve of COP21” (29 October 2015)

WCC Executive Committee Statement on UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, December 2015