Here’s our guide to the pivotal climate change conference, which begins next week.

What is COP 25?

COP 25 is 25th annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP 25 takes place in Madrid and will run from 2-13 December 2019.

So what is it all about?

The UN Framework on Climate Change (UNCFCCC) was adopted in 1992. It aimed to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Some 197 states have now signed up to the framework.

The Conference of Parties (COP) 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. It targeted a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and pursued efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

COP 25 aims to build ambition ahead of 2020, the year in which countries have committed to submit new and updated national climate action plans. Crucial climate action work will be taken forward in areas including finance, the transparency of climate action, forests and agriculture, technology, capacity building, loss and damage, indigenous peoples, cities, oceans and gender.

Why is it important?

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” stated a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations earlier this month. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”

There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

The effects of climate breakdown are already being felt throughout the world, and especially in the lower-income countries least able to adapt to them. The COP will continue to monitor the mechanisms established to ensure that these poorer countries have the resources to properly protect their people.

So with the Paris Agreement ratified by over 170 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. This conference will produce guidance on how national climate plans can be drawn up close the gap towards achieving the 1.5°C limit.

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

No. So our children, grandchildren and future generations have a planet to live on, we must limit the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5 °C. To achieve this, greenhouse gas emissions must be eliminated by 2040.

The current national commitments would result in emissions in 2030 being higher than in 2015 and will take us on the 3°C warming path.

And we don’t know about potential tipping points when warming runs out of control. The present commitments realistically exclude the attainment of either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets. Without continuing and escalating commitment, additional measures and system change, complete climate breakdown and its horrendous consequences seem 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, talk 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. 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.
  • At election time, question your candidates on what they intend to do to in response to the climate emergency. Your vote counts!

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 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?

Climate Champions explains how our recent work in 13 countries – from the smaller scale in Malawi to major enhancement of water supplies in whole province catchment areas in Sudan – has helped some of the most vulnerable people in the world adapt to the effects of climate change.

In Pakistan Islamic Relief helps communities cope with the challenges of climate change. For example, we have:

  • built dams to collect rain water, introduced drip irrigation methods
  • laid underground pipes to supply water to people’s houses
  • taught women how to do kitchen gardening, given vocational skills to women to diversify their sources of income especially when they are unable to rely on livestock and agriculture.

Among climate initiatives in Bangladesh, 3,000 extremely poor households have benefited from a comprehensive project in which they gained enhanced income, food, livelihood security, basic services and resilience to the ravages of climate change.

As the climate emergency grips Kenya, pastoral communities are clashing over increasingly scarce water and grazing land. Islamic Relief is supporting traditional community leaders and informal peace advocates like female teachers, faith leaders and community activists to work together to find innovative solutions to the twin challenges of conflict and climate change

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

Islamic Relief’s Action on Climate and Consumption project supported 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 changing their food buying habits to cut out waste, and swapping cars for walking, cycling, buses and trains.
  • People 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. Our ambitious Environmental Policy commits us to reducing and eliminating emissions in our offices and operations through improving energy efficiency, and planting trees to offset essential air travel.

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

Here is a selection of our favourites:

  • “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?

There are many 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.

Here are some simple ideas to inspire you: