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Religious leaders' statement on COP26

Here is the full statement of the Religious Leaders and Interfaith Groups of Aotearoa New Zealand that was presented to the New Zealand Government's Minister for Climate Change, Hon James Shaw, outside the New Zealand Parliament on 19 October 2021.

Religious Leaders and Interfaith Groups of Aotearoa New Zealand  |  27 Oct 2021

A Statement to the New Zealand Government on the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021 from Religious Leaders and Interfaith Groups of Aotearoa New Zealand

Humanity must right now confront the greatest moral and spiritual challenge in its history to date. 

As the recent United Nations IPCC Assessment Report, AR6, concludes, there is no hope of limiting global warming to even 2°C if we do not commit to effective action now.

Already in our closest geographic region the disastrous consequences of a near 1.2℃ rise in average global surface temperature are threatening the viability of more and more low-lying Pacific Island nations.

As people of faith seeking to respond to this challenge we draw comfort and insight from the rich traditions and teachings of the many religious communities now present in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

From each we see powerful invocations for all to care deeply for the natural world alongside caring for all of humanity.

Many of the world's religions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Baha’i have urged the need for environmental protection and conservation. 

Key to religious teaching is the understanding that sustainable and harmonious relationships between all of humanity and nature is not merely an abstract ideal but rather a comprehensive guide for living justly and walking gently upon the earth.

We are mindful also that our religious traditions have much in common with understandings central to Te Ao Māori. We acknowledge respectfully that through the teachings of traditional karakia the natural world is understood to be of sacred importance; that through the invocation of whakapapa comes the understanding that everything and everyone within Te Ao Whānui is interconnected and that through the shared responsibility of kaitiakitanga we accept that it is the duty of all humankind to care for the oceans and the earth and all who dwell therein.

Tragically, it is our collective failure to heed either these religious and indigenous teachings, or indeed to heed the warnings long given by climate change scientists, by environmental activists or by political figures deeply attuned to the perils of climate change, which now results in an unmitigated global crisis.

At this time therefore we urge the Government to consider anew the benefit of incorporating the age-old teachings and values of religious and indigenous communities in your response to the Paris Agreement.

Religious and indigenous communities, who act collectively, who care for humankind and the environment, and who show compassion especially in times of crisis and distress, now have a significant role to play.

We recognise the enormity of the task, especially for rich and powerful countries whose models of extraction, production, consumption, and waste are causing the current environmental breakdown, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, water and air pollution, soil depletion, habitat destruction and mass extinction of many living organisms.

We abhor the huge disparities in wealth, consumption and carbon emissions that continue to exist globally and in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Specifically we call on the Government to engage the climate change kaupapa by: 

• Committing to the strongest possible Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the COP26 climate negotiations, in order to align the 2022 -2030 NDC with a 1.5℃ limit to global temperature increase. To do this, our nation must aim to achieve at least a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and aim to achieve net zero emissions earlier than 2050.

• Committing to include people expert in the climate change issues from within religious and indigenous communities to represent Aotearoa New Zealand at all international climate change forums. Respect for Te Tiriti o Waitangi requires equitable Māori/non-Māori partnership relationships to be reflected in all aspects of representation and leadership associated with bodies established to work on these matters into the future.

• Actively advocating for those island nations of the Pacific already suffering from sea level rise and other hugely destructive direct climate change impacts.

• Ensuring a Just Transition by giving attention to measures such as: assessment of distributional inequities; policies to address unequal impacts and ensure income support; support of workers in high emissions sectors to retrain for roles in a zero-emissions economy.

• Supporting citizens disadvantaged by the climate crisis, through changes in government policies on tax, agriculture, energy and transport, and greatly increased investments in green and sustainable technology and practices.

• Ensuring that any use of purchased off-shore credits for mitigation is a “last resort” measure and is robustly verified for environmental integrity.

• Making the transition to a non-exploitative and green economy a top priority, the transition supported by science-based targets that are aligned with a healthy, resilient and zero-emissions future.

• Funding education on climate transitions on a par with public education for the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, providing a recalibrated system of education which will prepare young people and adults in a process of life-long learning for participation in a regenerative economy.

• Working with all those who are already actively educating people about climate change and climate action, including indigenous and faith communities.

• Taking a principled approach to responsibility for historic emissions. In achieving high standards of living, Aotearoa New Zealand has emitted more carbon per capita than most other countries. We therefore have a greater responsibility to reduce emissions as well as greater capacity to reduce emissions. This goes along with providing support for ‘developing countries’ to develop further through low emissions economies.

A Tiriti/Treaty of Waitangi Relationships Framework must guide the new NDC and all other aspects of response to the climate emergency. Te Ao Māori offers an integrated worldview which supports thewhole-of-systems approach needed for a regenerative economy.

Tangata Whenua-approved applications of tikanga will ensure that agreed standards provide the protection required for ngā taonga tuku iho, te whenua and te taiao (heritage, land and nature).

This will have a positive impact on the restoration of ecological balance and on harm reduction levels in particular.

Faith communities are committed to putting energy into the task of restoring our relationships with the natural world in ways that work. Faced with the existential threat inherent in the climate crisis, we will draw on time-tested methods within our traditions, such as practices of renewal and behaviour change, renunciation, living simply and caring for each other, to guide us in undertaking this sacred work of restoration together, Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti.

We therefore call on the Government to find the moral and political courage that is required to engage this kaupapa fully on our behalf, both at home and at COP26 in Glasgow. 

Kia hora te marino                    
Kia whakapapa pounamu te Moana
Kia tere te kārohirohi

May the seas be calm
May the shimmer of summer
Glisten like the precious greenstone
And dance gently across our pathways

(as together we seek now to preserve and protect the most sacred gift of all, the gift of all of life on the earth.) 

The Statement was prepared jointly by members of the Religious Diversity Centre together with a specially commissioned workgroup of persons well versed in matters of Climate Change: 

The Religious Diversity Centre Trust co-chairs: Jocelyn Armstrong and Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel

The Advisory Workgroup: The Ven. Amala Wrightson, Dr Paul Blaschke, Dr Mary Eastham, Dr Anwar Ghani, DrNicola Hoggard Creegan, Sunlou Liuvaie, Dr Betsan Martin, Dr Richard Milne, Rod Oram, Amy Ross, Mandira Shailaj, Dr Bob Skipp, Anton Spelman.

The Statement to the Government on the NDC to the Paris Agreement for COP26 has been endorsed by the following Religious Leaders and Interfaith groups (to 30 September 2021):

Suzanne Mahon, Executive Officer, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’is of New Zealand

Paddy Payne, Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs

The Most Reverend Philip Richardson, Archbishop, Anglican Church Aotearoa New Zealand Polynesia

The Right Reverend Ross Bay, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Auckland

The Right Reverend Dr Eleanor Sanderson, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Wellington

The Right Reverend Justin Duckworth, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Wellington

The Reverend Prince Devanandan, Anglican Church, of Aotearoa, New Zealand, Polynesia

Bishop Richard Randerson, CNZM

Cardinal John Dew, Catholic Archbishop of Wellington

Archbishop Paul Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington

Emeritus Bishop Peter Cullinane, Catholic Diocese, Palmerston North

The Reverend Andrew Doubleday, President, Methodist Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

The Right Reverend Hamish Galloway, Moderator Elect, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

Apotoro Takiwa Kereama Pene, Te Haahi Ratana

Rangi McLean, Tohunga, Te Haahi Ringatu

Alistair and Anne Hall, Co-Clerks, Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Ibrar Sheikh, President, Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand

Sheikh Rafat Najm, Al Hikmah Trust

Rajaie Ghashi, President, Islamic Council of New Zealand

Rabbi JoEllen Duckor, Wellington

Rabbi Dean Shapiro, Beth Shalom, Auckland

Sridhara Mysore, Hindu Community Outreach and Liaison

Acharya Ajay Tiwari, Sanskrit Yoga & Jyotish Trust, Hindu

Kishan Raj, President, Chinmaya Mission New Zealand

Abbess Manshin, Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple.

Ven. Drupon Kunchok Yeshe, Retreat Master, Milrepa Retreat Centre

Ven. Walimada Jinalankara Thero, Abbot, Dhamma Gavesi Meditation Centre

Ajahn Chandako, Abbot, Vimutti Forest Monastery

Philip Shinko Squire Roshi, Teacher and Leader, Green Mountain Zen

Master Chang Lin, Abbess, Pu Shien Temple

Caitlin Bush, Dharma Teacher, Plum Village Tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat

Barbara Robson, Sangha Leader, Order of Interbeing Member, New Zealand Centre of Mindful Living

Clare Fearnley, Sangha Jewel of the Heart, Sangha Leader

Bhai Verpal Singh, Chairman, Sikh Centre New Zealand

Ram Singh, New Zealand Council of Sikh Affairs

Daljit Singh, President, Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand

Professor David Tombs, Professor, Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago

Professor Kevin Clements, Emeritus Professor, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago

Rev. Jean McElhaney, Interfaith-Interspiritual Minister and Sufi cheraga

Rev. Diane Marama Hendrickson Winder, OSI, Interfaith-Interspiritual Minister

Daniel Jon Winder, OSI, Interfaith-Interspiritual Ministers

Rev. Sirr Christoffersen , for Sufi Runaniat International and Inayatiyya

Julianne Hickey, Director, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

The Dunedin Interfaith Council

The Hawke’s Bay Interfaith Council

The Interfaith Council of Nelson-Tasman

The Palmerston North Interfaith Group

The Tauranga Moana Interfaith Council

The Waikato Interfaith Council

The Wellington Inter-Faith Council

The Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group

The Wellington Abrahamic Council of Jews, Christians, and Muslims

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Committee for Interfaith Relations

The Religious Diversity Centre Trust Board