Letter to H.H. Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians and to H.E. the Locum Tenens, 19 April 1995.
During this period of Holy Week when Christians pray in anticipation of the Cross of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, our thoughts are with the Armenian people whose history has been a constant movement from suffering to hope, from cross to resurrection.
This year the Armenian people in Armenia and all over the world commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The World Council of Churches in accordance with its clear stand for justice and human rights has on various occasions reminded the world community of “the tragic massacre of one-and-a-half million Armenians in Turkey and the deportations of another half million from their historic homeland at the beginning of this century”. The WCC has also stated that the “public recognition of those events is essential in order that they do not continue to engender violent acts of retribution, and that through remembering the history of the Armenian people other peoples might be spared a similar fate”. Recently, when expressing its concern for uprooted people, the WCC stated “the presence of uprooted people in their midst reminds churches of their vocation and of the powerful and energizing message of the coming Kingdom that is obscured and overshadowed by the realities of injustice and oppression, of marginalization and exclusion, of destruction and war – of sin and violence against human beings, other creatures and the earth.” The presence of the Armenian Church and people in diaspora is a concrete example of an uprooted people who continues to survive.
With this letter we express to you and to your people our concern and solidarity affirming at the same time our commitment for justice. We believe that “proclaiming the Gospel of hope for all people and remembering the communion in Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection, churches live their vocation as viable and inclusive communities, accompanying uprooted people, sharing in their hope and suffering and providing space for them.”
May the memory of the Armenian martyrs become for the Armenian Church and the people a source of renewed hope, faith and vision.
Yours in Christ,
Petition Campaign on Climate Change
Letter to member churches and related national councils of churches in the industrialized countries, 3 March 1996.
For some years, the World Council of Churches has been concerned with climate change and its implications for the future of humanity. You remember the statement the Central Committee issued at its meeting in Johannesburg (January 1994) and the study paper which was shared with you. The enclosed booklet describes the broad range of current WCC initiatives on climate change which are coordinated by a committee chaired by Dr David Hallman.
Unfortunately, governments are slow in taking the measures needed to meet the threat.
In March/April last year delegations of the countries that have ratified the Climate Change Convention met in Berlin. Mindful of our ecumenical relationships, the WCC supported the urgent appeal from countries [of the Pacific region] most exposed to the consequences of climate change.
However, the governments did not adopt binding reduction targets of greenhouse gas emissions. They only decided to engage in a new round of negotiations in the hope that new results can be reached by Autumn 1997 when the UN General Assembly will evaluate the follow up of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992).
Often, government representatives explain their inability or unwillingness to act by referring to the perceived lack of support by the population. Clearly, further progress is only possible if the level of consciousness about the urgency of the issue can be raised. To contribute to this goal the World Council of Churches proposes to the member churches in the industrialized countries to organize a petition campaign to mobilize public opinion, and to urge their governments, through this means, to take more determined action. This petition would be circulated simultaneously in industrialized countries. We are concentrating on industrialized countries as they have contributed most to date to the climate change problem through their greenhouse gas emissions, and largely have resisted taking adequate steps to address the magnitude of the problem, in our view.
The petition campaign is being launched between April and June of 1996 depending upon the country, and will run through January 1997. The signatures then will be first submitted to national governments and later, in an appropriate way, to the UN. We enclose the text of the petition. Obviously, the wording will need to be adapted to the context of each country.
Some details about climate change and its impact on society can be found in the WCC study paper of which we include another copy. Meanwhile, a new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a representative UN body of scientists has been published (December 1995). It confirms earlier findings and further affirms that actions of humankind are contributing to the problem. Therefore, it urges governments not to further delay action.
In preparing for our campaign we have made contact with various international church organizations. We are happy to report that the following have agreed to support the campaign: Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Lutheran World Federation, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, World YMCA and World YWCA. Others have indicated that they will take up the matter through their decision making bodies in due time. From initial contacts, where we received commitments and positive indications, we are also confident that various environmental organizations will be supportive of the campaign. Therefore, we encourage you to be in contact with the organizations in your country affiliated with these bodies.
I draw your attention to the attachment which provides details about the climate change petition campaign in your country. …
Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser
CLIMATE CHANGE: URGENT ACTION NEEDED!
International Petition to Governments of Industrialized Countries
There is now strong scientific consensus that the atmosphere is warming as a result of human activity, and that this is likely to have far-reaching environmental, social and economic consequences. Climate change is a serious threat to the well-being of creation.
The effects of climate change are predicted to include: more intense storms, more floods, more droughts and more disease. To keep climate change within bearable limits, the emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), must be significantly reduced.
Industrialized countries are the main source of these emissions while the first victims will be the small island states such as in the Pacific and low-lying coastal countries like Bangladesh.
Despite the clear risks, governments are slow to act.
In solidarity with those most likely to suffer from climate change, the signatories of this petition ask their government to take steps required to meet the danger:
by fulfilling their promise made in the context of the Rio Earth Summit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000;
by establishing firm policy measures and adopting a binding international agreement which will achieve greater reductions in emissions after the year 2000, primarily through renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, reframing market incentives and new consumption patterns (without relying on an increase in nuclear power generation); and
by initiating more forcefully the public debate on climate change issues, and increasing the citizens' active participation in finding solutions.
By signing this petition, we declare our commitment to accept the consequences of reductions for society, economy and our personal lives. We are prepared to take responsible steps in our own lives to reduce our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that such changes would improve the long-term quality of life for all.
This petition is being circulated throughout industrialized countries. It has been initiated by the World Council of Churches and has the support of the following organizations so far:
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Lutheran World Federation, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, World Alliance of Young Men's Christian Associations (YMCA), World Student Christian Federation, Green Cross International, Klimabündnis/Alianza del Clima, World Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Conference of European Churches (CEC), Friends of the Earth, International Society of Doctors for the Environment, General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists. (More endorsements are anticipated)
Climate Change Petition
The UN's Inter governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently 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 the emission 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, e.g., through industry, heating, the increasing number of cars and other vehicles. In the past, and at present, the industrialized 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 percent. Therefore, it is imperative that the consumption of energy from fossil fuels be dramatically reduced in these countries.
At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), our government signed the Convention on Climate Change and accepted, as a first step, the obligation to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions 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 industrialized 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 industrialized country emissions, needed in the longer term, will require more far reaching changes. Morally, there is no other choice. The signatories of the petition call on both the government and 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, both in our own country and around the world.
The signatories 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.