Climate change is not the easiest topic to understand so we have put together this quick and easy to read guide to explain what COP 23 is all about.

What is CoP 23?

CoP23 is 23rd annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is a place for the concerned public worldwide to begin – or continue – their engagement in the effort to combat global warming and the human activity that causes it.

CoP 23 is being held in Bonn – the seat of the UNFCCC headquarters – and will be organised by Fiji, a small Pacific island state particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change like rising ocean levels and extreme weather phenomena. It will run from 6-17 November 2017.

Okay, but what is it all about?

Back in 1992, the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNCFCCC) was adopted. The aim of was to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and 197 states have now signed up to the framework.

COP – Conference of Parties – was set up in 1995 to review progress. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was passed. This is really important as it committed State Parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement of 2015 strengthened the global response to the threat of climate change in targeting a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. COP 23 aims build on the legally-binding Paris Agreement by accelerating its implementation and set out the next steps to transformative change.

Why is it important?

New analysis suggests that limiting temperature rises could be met with a modest strengthening of the current Paris pledges up to 2030, followed by sharp cuts in carbon emissions thereafter. Current estimates are that if greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero by 2057, we will be able to avoid the increase which would be a tipping point for catastrophic change in the climate.

At the same time, the effects of climate change are being felt throughout the world, and especially in the lower-income countries least able to adapt to them. The C0P continues to monitor the mechanisms established to ensure that these poorer countries have the resources to properly protect their people.

So with the Paris Agreement signed by 162 countries, now is the time to ensure that the commitments are being met and innovative ways to strengthen and extend the actions are shared and agreed.

Are we all committed to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions?

Sadly, it’s not that easy or straightforward. A lot of countries have published their intended commitments and action plans of how they will reduce their carbon emissions, but others haven’t, and many of the commitments are conditional on money from the international community.

If all the intended commitments are passed though, will that be enough?

To provide a habitable planet for our children, grandchildren and future generations, we must limit the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, as agreed at Paris. To achieve this, greenhouse gas emissions must be eliminated within 40 years. The Paris voluntary national commitments would result in emissions in 2030 being higher than in 2015 and are consistent with a 3°C warming path, and significantly higher if the warming impacts of carbon-cycle feedbacks are considered. Unless dramatically improved upon, the present commitments exclude the attainment of either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets this century without wholly unrealistic assumptions about negative emissions. Without continuing and escalating commitment, additional measures and system change, complete climate breakdown and its horrendous consequences seems inevitable.

“We are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet”
Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, 2015

Is there anything we can do to help ensure that governments act on their commitments?

We have been asking people to campaign with us. Start conversations with your friends and neighbours, talking to religious leaders about the issue, spread the word on social media, and look for petitions and events near you that can get people talking about climate change and pass the word along.. Keep yourself informed, The Guardian provides up to date information. Look for local and national campaigns on climate issues, or start your own. Muslim Action on Development and Environment (MADE) has produced a Campaign Toolkit offering practical advice to get a campaign off the ground, as well as helpful tips and creative ideas to give your campaign maximum impact.

Islamic Relief and climate change

Why is Islamic Relief getting involved in a discussion about climate change? We thought you worked to alleviate poverty?

We do. And what we have increasingly found is that much of the poverty and suffering we are working to reduce is actually caused by climate related factors.

For example, we work in East Africa where famine has followed years of drought, and in South Asia where land erosion due to storms and surges is depriving vulnerable people of their livelihoods. Furthermore, when we set out to help families and communities overcome their situation we find that climate change is one of the biggest challenges they face. Scarce water in areas of central Asia is not being replaced so people cannot sustain the progress they have made in increasing their family assets such as livestock. When rains come they are often in the form of violent storms causing flooding and destruction of roads which thwart efforts to supply drought stricken districts.

Climate breakdown is adding an uncertainty to the lives of poor and marginalised people in developing countries which are disproportionately affected by climate change. Through impacts on livelihoods, reductions in crop yields, destruction of homes, increases in food prices, and water scarcity people living in poverty are most severely affected because they lack the assets and power to cope with these stresses.

What is Islamic Relief doing about climate change?

Islamic Relief has raised over £26 million over the last three years to address issues related to climate change in some of the most vulnerable communities in 13 countries – from the smallest scale in Malawi to major enhancement of water supplies in whole province catchment areas in Sudan.

One of our programmes in Pakistan provides clean and safe drinking water, sanitation and health interventions to improve hygiene practices and reduce the risk of disease. Among climate initiatives in Bangladesh, Islamic Relief is running a long-term programme to reduce risks by enhancing climate change adaptation and disaster resilience, and an integrated development project is empowering climate vulnerable households and communities to enhance income, food and livelihoods security, basic services, resilience and a reduction in extreme poverty. In north-eastern Kenya Islamic Relief has recently completed a solar irrigation project to improve community resilience, preparedness and food security and increase self-reliance by enabling pastoralists who have repeatedly lost their herds to drought to switch to growing fruit and vegetables.

Our climate policy shapes how we are responding to the climate change challenges, and the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change calling on Muslims to protect the environment has been adopted by more than 60 Muslim leaders from around the world.

Islamic Relief’s Action on Climate & Consumption project is supporting people in some of the world’s poorest countries to fight climate change, while at the same time inviting Muslim communities and others in the ‘rich North’ to join the struggle. Mosques and schools are committing to lowering energy consumption by adjusting heating and conditioning levels and looking for ‘green’ providers. Families are looking to their food buying habits to cut out waste, and their transport needs to see where walking, cycling, buses and trains can replace car use. Individuals are digging gardens, growing vegetables, and planting trees. People everywhere are considering how they can reduce, reuse and recycle what they buy.

We are also working to reduce our own carbon footprint. We are reducing emissions in our offices and operations through improving energy efficiency, and reducing carbon emissions from air travel. We are sourcing our products from companies offering low-carbon production or processes and exploring a scheme to offset the carbon of all essential travel.

What do the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) say about climate change?

Here is a selection of our favourite references:

““O children of Adam!… eat and drink- but waste not by excess for Allah loves not the wasters.” (Qur’an 7:31)

“The Earth is green and beautiful, and God has appointed you his stewards over it.” (Muslim)

“Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded.” (Bukhari)

“Do not strut arrogantly on the earth. You will never split the earth apart nor will you ever rival the mountains’ stature.” (Qur’an 17:37)

What can I do to help improve the climate?

There are many simple ways that people have helped improve the climate, whether as individuals, or as a community. Collectively we have to take action to prevent further damage to the earth we all live on.

Here are some simple ideas to inspire you:

  • Turn down heating or cooling slightly. Just 1 degree will help reduce your bills by about 8%.
  • Turn things off when not in use (lights, television, computers etc.) and don’t leave things on standby and chargers plugged in.
  • Hang your clothes out to dry rather than using the tumble dryer. Clothes dryers account for 6% of household’s annual electricity consumption
  • Drive less, walk or bike more. Use public transport.
  • Reduce your meat consumption, greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector are estimated to account for 14.5 per cent of the global total
  • Use both sides of paper when printing or writing, rather than just one.
  • Ditch bottled water. Every minute, Humans produce over 1 million plastic bottles releasing 120 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Most end up in landfill or in the ocean.
  • Buy a reusable coffee cup. Paper cups lead to 6.5 million trees cut down, 4 billion gallons of water, and enough energy to power 54,000 homes for a year going to waste
  • Buy local so food doesn’t have to travel so far to reach you. Buy what you need, don’t waste food.
  • Only boil as much water as you need
  • Cut your consumption: Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle