“Climate change is a major threat to much of the developing world, and it needs to be looked at with great care,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam in an interview with Quartz magazine in 2017.
Four years on, and the situation is even more acute. This week, governments, activists, and stakeholders are meeting to deliberate on the threat of climate change and make pledges to avoid further catastrophe.
The setting is the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which has begun in earnest in Glasgow, Scotland. For almost thirty years, leaders and parties have come together every year to form a global response to the climate emergency. This is the 26th iteration, postponed by one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to the official conference, a multitude of side events are taking place, aiming to help raise awareness of wider environmental issues, and encourage public participation in building a more sustainable world. One of these includes an event co-hosted by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat on 8 November.
While the threat of climate change has steadily increased over the past three decades, making it a relatively new phenomenon, the notion of caring for the environment is centuries-old.
We find important guidance in the faith of Islam on the responsibility of human beings to look after Allah’s creation. In the Qur’an, we are advised to live in harmony with the natural world that supports us and gives us life, and not to upset the delicate balance we find in nature.
For 1400 years, Muslims have believed that humans are responsible for caring for our planet and looking after the earth’s resources. This is an important principle — outlined centuries before climate change was discovered — that helps us to better understand our relationship with the world in which we live.
This relationship is one of stewardship of the earth, rather than dominion over it. We have been entrusted by Allah to leave behind a healthy and sustainable environment for the next generation. As such, all acts, large or small, to care for the natural and built environments are in keeping with the ethics of Islam.
Joining and working with other individuals and institutions with similar good intentions can have the effect of multiplying results. This is why events like COP26 are so important. They provide a catalyst to encourage widespread positive action.
In recent days at the conference, more than 100 global leaders have promised to end deforestation by 2030. Separately, more than 100 countries signed a pact on slashing methane levels. Meanwhile, India made a commitment to become carbon net-zero by 2070, and Latin American countries have joined reserves to create a vast marine protected area.
These pledges are encouraging, although there is still much work to be done to stop climate change and help the environment. Global societies also need to stem biodiversity loss, repair natural ecosystems, and better protect the oceans. Without this, we and our children could face devastating consequences.
But hope still exists. We can still restore the delicate balance set for us. We can embody our roles as stewards of Allah’s creation, and exist in harmony with the natural world. We can live more sustainably, and strive towards a clean, green future that benefits everyone. The time to act is now.