World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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26 October 2001

United Nations Climate Conference in Marrakesh:
World Council of Churches delegation plans a Christian-Muslim colloquium on religion and environment

cf. WCC Press Feature, Feat-01-10, of 30 July 2001
cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-24, of 16 July 2001
cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-14, of 15 June 2001

An ecumenical delegation will once again be representing the World Council of Churches (WCC) when government delegates meet in Marrakesh for what is now the seventh UN Climate Conference (COP), from 29 October to 9 November.

At this climate summit, the delegation plans to emphasize inter-religious dialogue between Muslims and Christians around the theme of environment and religion.

Among its other activities at the conference in Marrakesh, the WCC delegation will hold a colloquium on the subject of religion and environment in the Hotel Kenzi Farah (Avenue du President Kennedy), on Saturday 3 November, from 9.00 to 17.00 hrs. Discussion will focus primarily on Muslim and Christian approaches to environmental issues and climate change. Presentations, panel discussions and plenaries at the colloquium will stimulate reflection on how Christians and Muslims can work together in tackling the threat of climate change and its consequences.

Speakers will include Ahmed L. Khamlichi, director of Dar El Hadith El Hassania, Royal Palace, from Rabat, on the theme Islamic Perspectives on Environment and Climate Change, and Father Henri Madelin, editor of Etudes, from Paris, on the theme Christian Perspectives on Environment and Climate Change. Representatives of the government delegations from Sweden, Indonesia, Morocco and Argentina have been invited to the panel discussions in the afternoon.

At each of the climate conferences so far, the WCC delegation has organized workshops and ecumenical worship services with local and national faith communities and religious groups. For David Hallman, leader of the WCC delegation at the climate conference, it is essential that the religions and the churches tackle the issues of climate change: "The churches' involvement stems from our belief that God created and loves this world. We believe that God intends that humans, as an integral part of creation, should live in a wholesome relationship to the rest of creation so as not to cause such destruction that species, eco-systems and indeed large numbers of people are threatened."

The WCC believes that the industrialized countries carry the main burden of moral responsibility for the serious climate changes that are taking place. Poorer countries are specially vulnerable. Future generations will also be affected by the consequences of climate change. All this means that the WCC also has to play a pioneering role in reducing the causes of climate change: "It is a question of eco-justice," David Hallman declares. The WCC delegation intends to emphasize this at the colloquium in Marrakesh.

Another major concern of the WCC at this conference is that governments should clear the way for the final ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, so that it can at long last come into force. Says David Hallman: "The WCC is encouraged that the Kyoto Protocol now appears to be moving forward as a result of the Bonn agreement in July. The engagement of churches around the world no doubt contributed to the public support in many of the 178 countries that supported that agreement. As churches, we must continue that activity so that governme

At the follow-up conference to the climate summit in The Hague, held in Bonn in July of this year, the ministers who reached the "Bonn agreement" agreed in principle to accept the Kyoto Protocol. A great many technical questions remained to be resolved, however, and these were held over for the meeting in Marrakesh. States are not formally bound to implement the practical measures against the causes of climate change laid down in the Kyoto Protocol until they have ratified the latter.

The USA has not so far given any sign of being willing to take part in the negotiations about the Kyoto Protocol. The WCC must therefore continue to show solidarity with the churches in the USA, David Hallman insists: "As a global ecumenical community, we need to support the churches in the USA which continue their efforts to bring their government back into active participation in international efforts to address climate change."

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.