Breaking Ground with the Inaugural Faith Pavillion at COP28

Clean Technology Hub
7 min readJan 22, 2024

*Ibrahim Wambai

Image credit: Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development

The COP28 event in Dubai marked a pivotal moment in the global commitment to climate action, as nations united to emphasize the urgency of lowering temperatures to below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Among the multifaceted declarations and pledges, the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP) emerged as a beacon of collaboration. This initiative, boasting the participation of 14 African countries, including Nigeria, underscores a concerted effort to enhance cooperation with subnational governments in planning, financing, implementing, and monitoring climate strategies. The overarching goal is to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, amplifying both adaptation and resilience measures. As countries strive to meet these objectives, a global High-Level Political and religious dialogue on Multilevel Climate Action becomes an essential forum for collaboration. Additionally, the UAE Leaders’ Declaration on a Global Climate Finance Framework reinforces the critical role of climate action in achieving global goals.

The Global Climate Finance Declaration, an epoch-making agreement birthed at COP28, revolutionizes the discourse surrounding climate finance. It serves as a clarion call for collective action, shedding light on the prevailing trend where climate finance predominantly materializes as loans to already indebted nations rather than investments in renewable energy. In advocating for a shift in approach, the declaration underscores the urgency to fulfill commitments, broaden the sources of concessional finance, and carve fiscal space for impactful climate action. The transformative potential lies in the recognition that effective climate finance extends beyond mere monetary allocations, necessitating a holistic restructuring of financial mechanisms.

At the heart of COP28, faith communities issued a compelling Call to Action, urging negotiators to transcend the ordinary and reach for ambitious agreements rooted in justice and interconnectedness. The declaration’s core tenets include extended funding and inclusive access to the Loss and Damage Fund, novel avenues for the Green Climate Fund, and an unwavering commitment to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. The call resonates with a plea for a just transition to a green economy, prioritizing species and ecosystem protection in climate negotiations, and providing sustained funding and access to the Green Climate Fund. The declaration stands as a testament to the unifying power of faith in catalyzing climate action and accountability.

The Call to Action urges COP28 negotiators and policy makers to prioritize a just transition to a green economy, adopt the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, prioritize species and ecosystem protection in climate negotiations, and provide new and sustained funding and access to the Green Climate Fund.

The declaration of the Call to Action for Climate Change (COP28) calls for neutral, objective, and forceful accountability measures that hold nations and institutions accountable for harmful actions, delays, or inaction. The vision is that the wellbeing of humans, animals, and nature will be the central indicator of progress, rather than a sole focus on linear economic growth. The creation of this index requires a paradigm shift towards cyclic thinking and an interdisciplinary, global approach, considering the wisdom of spiritual and faith traditions.

Dr. Iyad Abumoghli, Director of the Faith for Earth Coalition of UNEP, said that the call to action invites all hearts and minds to unite in action, inspiring collective responsibility for climate protection. Bishop Marc Andrus, Episcopal Diocese of California, said that the Loss and Damage Fund is welcome news, but we are not near reaching the agreements needed to stay at a target of 1.5° C. Inclusive access to Loss and Damage, commitment to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and new forms of access for the Green Climate Fund are crucial commitments that we want to see realized at COP28 and going forward.

Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Founder of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, said that faith leaders are united with climate scientists and activists to say: that now is not the time to deny science. Khushwant Singh, Head of Secretariat, International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD), said that the Faith Pavilion inspires the actions, virtues, and wisdom needed to protect nature and Mother Earth: inclusivity, humbleness, honesty, far-sightedness, and altruism.

A statement was drafted by high-level faith leaders from around the world ahead of COP28, organized by the Muslim Council of Elders in collaboration with the COP28 Presidency and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Pope Francis, His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber emphasized the importance of mobilizing faith communities to raise awareness about the climate crisis.

The Pope and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar have signed an Interfaith Statement in support of urgent climate action, pledging to take swift and decisive action to address the climate emergency. The statement, signed by high-level faith leaders from across the world, is designed to harness the collective influence of religious representatives to inspire humanity to advance environmental justice. It issues a resolute call to action directed at heads of state, governments, civil society, and business leaders, impels urgent responses, including the acceleration of energy transitions, transition to circular models of living in harmony with nature, and rapid adoption of clean energy.

The signatories expressed their shared concern for the escalating climate impacts that imperil our planet and their common commitment to jointly address the global crisis. Dr. Al Jaber called COP28 “a moment of truth for the world to align around ambitious negotiated outcomes for every nation, every faith, every community, every family, and every single person living on this planet.”

In Abu Dhabi, COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber addressed the Global Faith Leaders’ Summit, where 28 faith leaders signed the Abu Dhabi Interfaith Statement on climate change. The statement, signed by the Muslim Council of Elders (MCE) in collaboration with the COP28 Presidency, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the UAE Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence, commits to addressing climate change and raising climate ambitions ahead of COP28. Dr. Al Jaber called the document a powerful statement of intent that the whole world needs to hear, expressing urgency, unity, solidarity, responsibility, and hope. The statement demands transformative action to keep the 1.5°C goal within reach and serve affected and vulnerable communities. The signatories acknowledged their shared concern for the escalating climate impacts and their common commitment to jointly address the global crisis. The summit came two days after an extraordinary meeting in Abu Dhabi about the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund to help vulnerable people recover from climate disasters. Dr. Al Jaber called for faith leaders to work together to address climate change and ensure that the world aligns around ambitious negotiated outcomes for every nation, faith, community, family, and person living on this planet.

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber called for faith leaders to help send a message of tolerance, peace, optimism, and prosperity from the UAE to the world. The COP28 Presidency has developed a four-point Action Plan to keep 1.5°C within reach and ensure nobody is left behind. These four-points are fast-tracking a just and orderly energy transition, fixing climate finance, focusing on people, nature, lives, and livelihoods, and underpinning everything with full inclusivity.

Inclusivity will be the defining hallmark of COP28, as progress is powered by partnership and success is secured through solidarity. The focus on inclusion was central to the Statement, which called for inclusive dialogue with faith leaders, vulnerable groups, youth, women’s organizations, and the scientific community to forge alliances that strengthen sustainable development. A Changemakers Majlis, titled ‘Faith and Science: Actioning an Ethic of Care for the Environment’, was held during the summit to foster knowledge sharing and trust-building for a more secure and sustainable world.

Further advancement in faith and climate action during COP28 were made when the Presidency co-hosted the Faith Pavilion, marking the first-ever pavilion of its kind at a COP event. The Pavilion hosted panels with religious leaders, scientists, and political leaders, as well as intergenerational engaging dialogue with young faith leaders and indigenous representatives.

The COP28 Faith Pavilion, hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders in collaboration with the COP28 Presidency, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and a diverse coalition of global partners, was a platform for faith-based engagement in addressing the human-made climate emergency. The pavilion was at the heart of COP28, It hosted over 75 sessions, bringing together religious and civil society representatives, Indigenous Peoples, scientists, youth, and political leaders.

The Pavilion promoted intergenerational dialogue, furthered the role of religion and spirituality in the climate movement, and advocated for long-term, holistic solutions to protect the Earth and its climate. It provided a unique opportunity for faith-based engagements with key stakeholders, including political delegations, decision makers, negotiators, and business leaders to ensure swift and effective climate action.

The COP28 Faith Pavilion is a testament to the collective duty of faith, indigenous, and wisdom traditions to honor the interconnectedness and interdependence that weave us into the fabric of life. It encourages a paradigm shift in our relationship with Earth and all its inhabitants, championing the development of a faith-based ecological narrative, continuous learning, and the integration of ecological teachings and values within educational, religious, and cultural institutions.

The Faith Pavilion at COP28 also aimed to promote multidisciplinary collaboration and mitigate climate change effects by raising awareness for human and nature-centered negotiating outcomes, empowering faith-based organizations to interact with national delegates, and encouraging collaboration.

As COP28 concluded, a resounding message emerges — the imperative for transformative global climate action. The Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP), the Global Climate Finance Declaration, and the Call to Action from faith communities collectively underline the interconnected nature of climate challenges and the necessity for inclusive, collaborative solutions. Moving forward, the international community must embrace a paradigm shift toward sustainable practices, guided by the wisdom embedded in diverse faith traditions. This journey ensures a future marked by resilience, harmony, and flourishing for all inhabitants of our shared planet.

Ibrahim Wambai is Lead Interfaith, Health and Migration at Clean Technology Hub.



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