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Religion comes to environment’s rescue

Where political leaders have failed to come up with a plan to save the planet from global warming, religious leaders have succeeded, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Jul 05, 2009 01:05 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Where political leaders have failed to come up with a plan to save the planet from global warming, religious leaders have succeeded.

On July 6, Islamic leaders from over 50 Muslim countries, including heads of states of Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, will meet in Istanbul to sign an agreement on environment conservation.

An announcement is expected on Haj pilgrimage becoming green from next year and environment studies being included in religious schools. Already, a mosque in Leicester, Britain has become the world’s first green mosque.

On Saturday, the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) signed a pledge with UNDP, the first Indian religious group to do so, for an initiative called EcoSikh. “We’ll reduce emissions from kitchens in gurdwaras around the world by installing solar equipment,” Dr Rajwant Singh, chairperson of SCORE told HT.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar has already started using solar energy for cooking. “The green covers you see at the Golden Temple will be replicated all over the world,” Singh said.

In a similar environment-friendly move, Sri Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupati and Sai Baba Temple in Shirdi now serve lunch to devotees cooked in solar-powered kitchens, apparently the world’s largest.

By November this year, a month before global leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss a draft agreement on global warming for the next 10 years, religious leaders will have in place an alternative action plan on climate change for religious bodies.

Under this plan, the Bible, Quran and other religious texts will be available on recycled paper, food in gurudwaras will be cooked in solar energy-fuelled kitchens, and places of worship around the world will install waste recycling and water-harvesting systems.

“Religious groups have taken up various projects to fight climate change,” said Olav Kjorven, head of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) international policy division on the environment, which is leading the initiative to bring religious leaders together to save the planet.

Pope Benedict XVI is also expected to issue an encyclical — a statement — on environment in a few days, Kjorven said. Churches in England and southern India have come up with seven-year plans to save the environment.

Representatives from 180 countries failed to reach an agreement in Bonn, Germany, last month on how to fight climate change. It’s been two years since the negotiations started in Bali. In contrast, religious bodies, which own half of all the schools in the world and 7-8 per cent of the land, have moved on to the fast track in only a year’s time.

“Religious bodies are the world’s biggest civil society and they can make a huge impact on the fight against climate change,” Kjorven said.