It is estimated that there are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today and that is approximating to over 20% of the World’s population. No one is exempt from the vagaries of climate change and Muslims have to accept their share of the responsibility for bringing this on to ourselves. In reminding the richer nations to shoulder their proportion of accountability for creating the greater volume of this problem it behooves each single one of us to play our part in returning the Earth to some semblance of balance. Islamic environmentalism is embedded in the matrix of Islamic teachings. The Qur’an is inherently conservationist and much of it has to do with how human beings relate to the natural world and the benefits that accrue from protecting it. The core of this declaration consists of the essence of the body of ethics based in the Qur’an which we would define as Knowledge of Creation (Ilm ul khalq).
In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate
1.1 God – Whom we know as Allah – has created the universe in all its diversity, richness and vitality: the stars, the sun and moon, the earth and all its communities of living beings. All these reflect and manifest the boundless glory and mercy of their Creator. All created beings by nature serve and glorify their Maker, all bow to their Lord’s will. We human beings are created to serve the Lord of all beings, to work the greatest good we can for all the species, individuals, and generations of God’s creatures.
1.2 Our planet has existed for billions of years and climate change in itself is not new. The earth’s climate has gone through phases wet and dry, cold and warm, in response to many natural factors. Most of these changes have been gradual, such that the forms and communities of life have adjusted accordingly. There have been catastrophic climate changes that brought about mass extinctions, but over time, life adjusted even to these impacts, flowering anew in the emergence of balanced ecosystems such as those we treasure today. Climate change in the past was also instrumental in laying down immense stores of fossil fuels from which we derive benefits today. Ironically, our unwise and short-sighted use of these resources is now resulting in the destruction of the very conditions that have made our life on Earth possible.
1.3 The pace of Global climate change today is of a different order of magnitude from the gradual changes that previously occurred throughout the most recent era, the Cenozoic. Moreover, it is human-induced: we have now become a force dominating nature. The epoch in which we live has increasingly been described in geological terms as the Anthropocene, or “Age of Humans”. Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet. This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mizan) may soon be lost. As we humans are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour. But the same fossil fuels that helped us achieve most of the prosperity we see today are the main cause of climate change. Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God – gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans. But our attitude to these gifts has been short-sighted, and we have abused them. What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy? How will we face our Lord and Creator?
1.4 We note that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (UNEP, 2005), backed by over 1300 scientists from 95 countries, found that “overall, people have made greater changes to ecosystems in the last half of the 20th century than at any time in human history… these changes have enhanced human well-being, but have been accompanied by ever increasing degradation (of our environment).” “Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of the earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”
1.5 Nearly ten years later, and in spite of the numerous conferences that have taken place to try to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the overall state of the earth has steadily deteriorated. A study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) comprising representatives from over 100 nations, published in March 2014, gave five reasons for concern.
In summary, they are:
- Ecosystems and human cultures are already at risk from climate change;
- Risks resulting from climate change caused by extreme events such as heat waves, extreme precipitation and coastal flooding are on the rise;
- These risks are unevenly distributed, and are generally greater for the poor and disadvantaged communities of every country, at all levels of development;
- Foreseeable impacts will affect adversely the earth’s biodiversity, the goods and services provided by our ecosystems, and our overall global economy;
- The earth’s core physical systems themselves are at risk of abrupt and irreversible changes.
We are driven to conclude from these warnings that there are serious flaws in the way we have used natural resources – the sources of life on Earth. An urgent and radical reappraisal is called for. Humankind cannot afford the slow progress we have seen in all the COP (Conference of Parties – climate change negotiations) processes since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was published in 2005, or the present deadlock.
1.6 In the brief period since the Industrial Revolution, humans have consumed much of the nonrenewable resources which have taken 250 million years to produce in the earth – all in the name of economic development and human progress. We note with alarm the combined impacts of rising per capita consumption together with the rising human population. We also note with alarm the multi-national scramble now taking place for more fossil fuel deposits under the dissolving ice caps in the arctic regions. We are accelerating our own destruction through these processes.
1.7 Leading climate scientists now believe that a rise of two degrees centigrade in global temperature, which is considered to be the “tipping point”, is now very unlikely to be avoided if we continue with business-as-usual; other leading climate scientists consider 1.5 degrees centigrade to be a more likely “tipping point”. This is the point considered to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change, which will expose yet more millions of people and countless other creatures to drought, hunger and flooding. The brunt of this will continue to be borne by the poor, as the earth experiences a drastic increase in levels of carbon in the atmosphere brought on in the period since the onset of the industrial revolution.
1.8 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.
The declaration itself was the result of far flung collaboration between organisations and individuals which finally culminated in it emerging as a substantive document at the symposium in Istanbul which took place on 17, 18 August 2015. The push for this came from the teaming up of IFEES/EcoIslam and Islamic Relief World Wide in 2014. Initial research commenced in late 2014 and the first working draft after internal consultation was ready by May 2015. Further work was carried out by a team of Muslim specialists consisting of academics and environmentalists, and the draft that emerged from this process was circulated worldwide through the internet and the web sites of IFEES/EcoIslam, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Climate Action Network and the Forum on Religion and Ecology. This consultative process lasted until mid-August 2015. The specialist team met in Istanbul on 15 and 16 August to consider responses and produced a synthesis draft for discussion at the symposium which followed and was attended by Islamic scholars, academics, UN representatives, multi faith representatives and NGOs. After due deliberations at the symposium the final draft was launched on 18 August 2015 at the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium held in Istanbul, Turkey.
To download the full declaration, please go to http://www.ifees.org.uk/