Islamic Relief’s senior advisor on Post-2015, Helen Stawski, explains why environmental protection is a priority area for Islamic Relief – and how we took that message to the rest of the world in September.

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the human race today. If we don’t stop global temperature rises then the damage will soon be irreversible; ice caps will continue to melt, sea levels will rise – displacing millions and destroying the eco-systems on which we depend for life. But there is something we can do about it: the decisions we take together as nations of the world can make a huge difference, but we must act before it’s too late.

Helen Stawski, Islamic Relief's senior advisor on Post-2015.

Helen Stawski, Islamic Relief’s senior advisor on Post-2015.

Climate change is not just about the environment: it’s about economics and social justice. Certain forms of economic growth – particularly current models based on fossil fuels and hyper-consumerism – have a negative impact on environmental sustainability. They are causing pollution and accelerating climate change. However, it is the world’s poorest people that feel the impact of climate change most acutely. They are the ones displaced. Their livelihoods are destroyed.

Given the multi-dimensional nature of environmental sustainability it is essential that a ‘green thread’ runs throughout the new Post-2015 development framework. This must include commitments on climate mitigation, such as agreeing to stop global warming beyond a further 1.5 degrees and decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation.

It must also incorporate dimensions of climate adaptation, for example, building climate resilient agriculture and infrastructure, such as WASH and health facilities.

Islamic Relief already addresses several different elements of climate change adaptation through its programmes with poor communities. We are now building on this experience to call for meaningful targets and indicators in the Post 2015 global framework.

Islamic contributions to the global conversation are essential

As a faith inspired NGO, we believe God has entrusted the care of the world to humanity. Therefore it is our religious duty to act to protect the planet and to call our governments to do likewise. It is therefore vital that we continue to demonstrate the enormous positive contribution that Muslim civil society can make to these global conversations.

Islamic Relief mobilised scores of volunteers to take part in the People's Climate March on Sunday 21 September.

Islamic Relief mobilised scores of volunteers to take part in the People’s Climate March on Sunday 21 September.

At the People’s Climate Change March in New York on 21 September, I saw this in action. It was wonderful to see so many Muslims turn out in support of this issue and to see people of all faiths and none standing together to call for change. The historic march saw almost half a million people take to the streets of New York City ahead of a global summit called by the Secretary General of the United Nations to put pressure on governments to make bold commitments to tackle climate change.

We also held our own side event on Eco-Islam at the United Nations General Assembly the day after the Summit. It was a completely unique side event exploring the intersection of Islam and environmental issues. During the event, Islamic Relief shared a panel with Fazlun Khalid, the founder of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

Islamic Relief showcased a new online training module on Eco-Islam that we are developing for practitioners. We also used the event to develop relationships with Muslims in the USA who are advocating on environmental sustainability at national and local levels.

In a world where climate change and environmental degradation typically hits the poorest communities the hardest, Islamic Relief is currently strengthening its work on environmental protection. We will continue to work on global advocacy to promote environmental sustainability through the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), both of which reach key milestones next year. In addition, at the local level our projects are enabling vulnerable communities to mitigate the impact of climatic changes, and to protect the environment from further harm.