Climate Change and Global Warming

        At the 19th Triennial meeting of the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) held in July 1997 at Birmingham, UK, our representatives considered the urgent actions needed worldwide against the related threats of climate change and global warming. This concern was  brought to the Triennial by Britain Yearly Meeting in the awareness that all countries will be expected to commit themselves to concrete action on this issue at the Climate Convention in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997.

        The UN's Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed in its Second Assessment Report that the climate changes we observe today are due to human activity. The IPCC includes scientists from around the world working on climate change.

        These changes are caused by an excess of greenhouse gases which leads to a gradual warming of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, the most significant of these gases, is released in large quantities into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, for example through industry, heating, and the increasing number of cars and other vehicles. The worldwide decrease in forests, which absorb carbon dioxide, is a secondary cause. In the past, and at present, the industrialised countries are the main source of these emissions. If the total amount over the last century is taken into account, they are responsible for over 80%. Therefore, it is imperative that the consumption of energy from fossil fuels be dramatically reduced in these countries. For countries currently becoming industrialised, it is important that ways be found so that they can do this without adding to the problems of climate change.

        At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), many of our governments signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change and accepted, as a first step, the obligation to stabilise greenhouse gas emission by the year 2000 at 1990 levels. From the beginning, it was clear that further reductions had to be achieved after the year 2000. However, measures to date are insufficient. Projections show that emissions will increase considerably after 2000. This danger must be prevented.

        We will all suffer from the consequences of climate change, but the first victims of rising sea levels and more intense storms will be small island states and low-lying coastal zones such as Bangladesh. In international negotiations they press for swift action. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has submitted to the international community a proposal to strengthen the Convention on Climate Change,  i.e., to reduce emissions from industrialised countries by 20% by the year 2005.

        The IPCC Reports show that a reduction of at least half of the present level will have to be achieved in the next 50 years in order to prevent dramatically destructive effects. In order to avert the loss of small island nations and other serious climate change consequences for us all, the faster we take the necessary measures, the less drastic they will need to be in the future.

        Significant reductions can occur through increased energy efficiency and use of renewable energy resources. Yet deeper reductions in industrialised country emissions, needed in the longer term, will require more far-reaching changes. Morally, there is no other choice. We call on our governments and on the public to move forward on the needed reductions. We further are convinced that, in the long run, the decisions required will enhance the quality of life for present and future generations, in all our countries.

        We believe that taking action to reduce the threat of climate change is an important contribution to the struggle for justice, peace and the well-being of all creation.

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        As Friends, we acknowledge the earth and its inhabitants as God's abundant creation. Drawing on our longstanding commitment to simplicity, equality, truth and peace, we affirm our obligation to act as responsible stewards of the natural world and to care for the needs of our fellow human beings both now and into the future.

We call on all Friends:

  1.    to recognise the challenge to our lives and witness that is presented by the climate change crisis;

  2.    to work in partnership with all peoples and with governments and non-governmental organisations in concrete actions to build sustainable societies;

  3.    to work for new models of sustainable societies built upon economic equity and ecological stability;

  4.    to promote the participation and empowerment of people in creating these new alternatives.

Also, we call on Friends in industrialised countries especially :

  1.    to consider how we should change our own lifestyles, remembering that we can be enriched by a simpler and less wasteful way of living.  In particular,
  2.    to help protect the atmosphere by significantly reducing our use of energy from fossil-fuel sources;

  3.    to limit our use of resources towards that which is sustainable, realising that for many this will mean a considerable reduction of material consumption.

We call upon our governments:

  1.    to ratify and implement the Framework Convention on Climate Change;

  2.    to adopt specific standards, timetables and strategies to dramatically reduce total carbon dioxide emissions to achieve the objectives of the Framework Convention.

        4 August, 1997

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