Islamic leaders take stance on climate change

Signal of change / Islamic leaders take stance on climate change

By Michael Zahn / 16 Sep 2015

Academics, Muslim scholars and international environment policy experts from 20 countries have issued the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change at the recent Islam Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul. The collective statement calls on the global Muslim community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels by 2050 and to change to energy from renewable sources.

The declaration includes several detailed political demands which are intended to increase pressure on Gulf States prior to the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015. Moreover, the document criticises the slow progress of international climate change negotiations: “It is alarming that in spite of all the warnings and predictions, the successor to the Kyoto Protocol which should have been in place by 2012, has been delayed. It is essential that all countries, especially the more developed nations, increase their efforts and adopt the pro-active approach needed to halt and hopefully eventually reverse the damage being wrought.” 

Image credit :Tom Kelly / Flickr

So what?

This declaration is comparable to Pope Francis’ encyclical, which also called for action in phasing out the use of fossil fuels. Unlike Catholicism, there is no central religious authority in Islam. However, the declaration suggests that Muslims have a religious duty to approach climate change. As Christiana Figueres, Climate Chief at the United Nations, stresses: “Islam’s teachings, which emphasise the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher’s role as an appointed guide, illuminate pathways to take the right action on climate change”.

With 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, the declaration addresses a huge audience. Could it influence policy to reduce carbon emissions in countries with an Islamic majority? Indonesia, for instance, is one of the top ten carbon emitting nations, taking into account change in land-use and forests. The major fossil fuel-producing countries in the Persian Gulf have some of the highest per capita emissions in the world. Other countries, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, have already seen the danger of extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels.

There are efforts to scale renewable energies in Islamic countries. For example, Bangladesh has supplied its rural areas with over 3.5 million solar home systems, while Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, has evolved to a hotspot for solar technologies research.

Unsurprisingly however, a number of oil-rich countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have been unwilling to curtail the recovery and consumption of fossil fuels. Could the Islamic leaders’ statement hold sway?


International Islamic Climate Change Symposium (2015) Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

Nature (August 19, 2015) Can Islamic scholars change thinking on climate change?

Islamic Relief (August 12, 2015) Islamic Climate Change Declaration

The Guardian (August 18, 2015) Islamic leaders issue bold call for rapid phase out of fossil fuels

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

Please register or log in to comment.