16th January 2020

Climate Change among the Religions: A Forum for Engagement

In Partnership with Coexist House, the Lincoln Theological Institute (The University of Manchester) and the Reckitt Trust

What is the Forum trying to do? Informed by expertise on climate change, its aim was to create an event of mutual learning between and among religious traditions, and thereby inspire fresh action by religious communities. In other words, their aim was to support fresh thinking and action in the context of anthropogenic climate change at all levels in religious institutions.

In support of this aim, the forum had three objectives:

    1. To explore how religious traditions have interacted practically with and learned theoretically about climate change,  in order to evaluate difficulties that religious traditions have in engaging with climate change.
    2. To assess issues that inhibit action by religious communities in favour of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
    3. To devise practical strategies to address these issues.

To meet these objectives the Forum invited expert representatives from

  1. a range of religious traditions,
  2. scientific expertise,
  3. policy and institutional leadership.

The Forum had four outcomes:

  1. The building of confidence within and between religious traditions in the wisdom of aspects of their thought and life to make a contribution to change—personal, communal, social and global—in the context of climate change.
  2. Through a process of mutual exchange, to identify more clearly obstacles to religious engagement with climate change.
  3. To equip key change makers to generate change in their institutions.
  4. To provide an educational resource/legacy to support further processes of change.

The Forum is not interested in a parade of the ecological credentials of religious traditions. Such work has already been undertaken. Nor is the Forum concerned to provide an inventory of the pro-ecological activities of religious traditions—although this work is very helpful and the Forum seeks to enhance such work.

Instead, the Forum wanted to identify and address key questions that both support and inhibit engagement by religious traditions with climate change and our climate emergency. For example, do religious traditions have novel ways of supporting intergenerational solidarity? To what extent should religious adherents engage in political processes beyond voting and advocacy—especially acts of witness, lament, and even Non-Violent Direct Action? In the light of Extinction Rebellion, can disruptive action be affirmed? Religious traditions have regulations about food and diet: given the ecological costs of food production, are there religious obstacles to changes in diets but also religious resources for thinking differently about food production? Are religious traditions so strongly invested in the distinctiveness of the human that acknowledging the value of the non-human is difficult? Are there deep commitments in religious traditions that undermine the sense that the earth is “home”?