Decades of scientific research have validated the reality of the accelerating climate emergency that now confronts us as an actual imminent catastrophe. Decades of advocacy by the World Council of Churches together with many faith and civil society partners have articulated the need for action, for a just transition to a sustainable future, and for accountability to the most vulnerable poorer communities and Indigenous Peoples, reflecting the historic responsibility of the most developed industrialized nations.
The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make it clear: to stay within the safer limit of 1.5°C global warming and to avoid much more serious consequences for life on earth, the global community has no more time to waste in reversing the trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions. Our Christian faith impels us to act – not only to speak – to safeguard God’s Creation, to protect the most vulnerable, and to promote justice. The global community is now faced with an existential need to move and act immediately and effectively for the sake of the whole of Creation, of which all human beings are a part. It is a moral and spiritual imperative.
The final statement of the recently concluded Fifth Halki Summit – co-organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Sophia University Institute on 8-11 June 2022 – observed that that “we are at a decisive turning point for the future of the human family” in which the churches are called to play an essential role in developing a shared ecological ethos, in overcoming the culture of waste, and in “reinforcing connections between ourselves and all of God’s creation, between our faith and our action, between our theology and our spirituality, between what we say and what we do, between science and religion, between our beliefs and every discipline, between our sacramental communion and our social consciousness, between our generation and the generations to come”.
The global metanoia required to confront this challenge must, first and foremost, entail an urgent phase-out of fossil fuel extraction and use, and a just transition to renewable energy sources that protects the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized communities and takes into account gender justice. However, in stark contrast to this need, the world is currently on track to produce more than twice as much coal, oil and gas by 2030 than is consistent with limiting the rise in global temperature to below 1.5°C, and this negative trajectory is being accelerated as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.
The world’s wealthiest 20% are responsible for nearly 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This must be reflected in the global decisions to achieve climate neutrality, and the rich nations and communities of the world must recognize their duty to act first and furthest in reducing their emissions to sustainable levels, to address loss and damage and to support mitigation and adaptation in poorer countries and communities. This is a matter of justice and fundamental moral and ethical responsibility.
Indeed, continuing wilfully on our current destructive path is a crime – against the poor and vulnerable, against those least responsible for the crisis but bearing its heaviest impacts, against our children and future generations, and against the living world. New mechanisms of accountability should be considered in this regard, and the central committee recognizes with appreciation initiatives for the establishment of ’ecocide’ as an international crime, and for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
We recognize that Indigenous Peoples are both especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change while being among the least responsible for it, and sources of important wisdom and spirituality for a sustainable future. Indigenous communities occupy 20-25% of the Earth’s land surface, holding 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. To protect the ecosystems threatened by climate change and extractive industries, Indigenous People must be acknowledged, respected and supported. There can be no liveable future without them.
Noting that Kiribati has recently declared a state of natural disaster due to prolonged drought and that many islands are threatened by large ocean surges, we lift up the peril faced by low-lying island nations in the Pacific region and elsewhere. We stand with all the communities at greatest risk from rising sea levels, who face a future as ‘climate-induced displaced people’. We acknowledge that climate change is already becoming one of the major drivers of displacement and migration, presenting a major international humanitarian challenge.
We observe the mounting threat to biodiversity in God’s abundant creation that climate change represents, with so many species at increasing risk of extinction and with profound consequences for the whole web of life.
We recognize the leadership of children and young people in challenging the status quo that has brought us to this precipice. Such young people are holding governments, economic vested interests and all current authorities more effectively to account than the efforts of many others. They are powerfully making the case that climate inaction by the current generation of leaders is a matter of grave intergenerational injustice and of violence against children.
We are deeply disturbed and dismayed that at almost the very last moment for the world to finally come together to confront the common existential threat posed by the climate emergency, a new conflict in the heart of Europe is entrenching fresh and deeper divisions in the international community and driving us all even more rapidly towards climate catastrophe.
The central committee therefore:
Condemns the exploitation, degradation and the violation of Creation to satisfy the greed of humanity.
Urges all member churches and ecumenical partners around the world to give the climate emergency the priority attention that a crisis of such unprecedented and all-encompassing dimensions deserves, both in word and deed, and to amplify their efforts to demand the necessary action by their respective governments within the necessary timeframe to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and to meet historic responsibilities to poorer, more vulnerable nations and communities.
Appreciates the joint report of the WCC Ecumenical Indigenous Peoples Network Reference Group and Working Group on Climate Change that underlines the pivotal role of Indigenous Peoples in shaping an alternative path of being in right relationship with the whole of Creation.
Observes with dismay that the inter-sessional Climate Change Conference in Bonn has ended without adequate financial commitments on mitigation and adaptation or with regard to loss and damage, and calls once again upon the wealthier industrialized countries most responsible for climate change to fulfil their duty to poorer more vulnerable countries and regions that are suffering the heaviest impacts of this disaster, and to stop using climate action and financing as a trade-off or a tool for other political purposes.
Appeals to all members of the global ecumenical family – churches, organizations, communities, families and individuals – to ’walk the talk’ and to take such actions as they are able in their own contexts, noting in a global context that the action or inaction of one country disproportionately negatively impacts vulnerable countries. To help drive a just transition to a sustainable future member churches are encouraged to draw inspiration from the many resources made available by the WCC and other relevant sources.
Urges member churches and ecumenical partners to advocate with their national authorities for the introduction of legislation to ensure the implementation of measures in accordance with the global Paris Agreement and to achieve the relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals, and for reallocation of military spending budgets to the purposes of a just transition to renewable energy, sustainable development and the eradication of extreme poverty.
Encourages efforts to promote climate-responsible finance in the affairs of all members of the global ecumenical family, by ensuring that through our pension funds, banks and other financial service arrangements we are not complicit in financing climate-destroying fossil fuel industries but are supporting the accelerated development of an economy based on sustainable renewable energy and mutual solidarity.
Calls for the forthcoming 11th WCC Assembly, the last such global ecumenical assembly within the remaining window of opportunity for action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, to be used appropriately as a platform for promoting the ecological metanoia we need in the ecumenical movement and in the wider world, through the encounter of churches from rich nations and poor, from the privileged and the imperilled. We invite all WCC member churches and ecumenical partners to come to the Assembly prepared to listen and learn from the stories of struggle and resilience from affected communities, to share their commitments and initiatives, and to match their words with deeds, to help ensure a sustainable future for the living world that God created in such abundance and complexity.
Invites consideration by the WCC Assembly and governing bodies of the establishment of a new Commission on Climate Change and Sustainable Development in order to bring the appropriate focus to this issue in this pivotal period.