A group of Islamic experts urged the world's 1.6 billion Muslims on Tuesday to do more to fight global warming, in a new example of religious efforts to galvanize action before a U.N. climate summit in Paris in December.
In June, the world's most important Christian leader, Pope Francis, urged world leaders to hear "the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" in an encyclical on the environment for the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Unlike Roman Catholicism, Islam is a highly decentralized religion with no single recognized authority. But Muslim experts from 20 nations agreed an 8-page declaration at talks in Istanbul where it was adopted by 60 participants including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, a statement said.
"Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God, whom we know as Allah - gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans," they wrote.
They said inaction on reining in manmade greenhouse gas emissions, from factories, power plants and cars, would mean "dire consequences to planet earth."
The declaration called on rich governments - and oil-producing states that include some OPEC nations where Islam is the state religion - to lead the way in "phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century."
It is unclear what weight the Islamic declaration will have for Muslims in the run-up to the climate summit in Paris from Nov. 30-Dec. 11.
Din Syamsuddin, chairman of a Muslim organization in Indonesia which has some 30 million members, welcomed Tuesday's declaration. "Let's work together for a better world for our children, and our children's children," he said.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, a key collaborator on the papal encyclical, praised the declaration and promised closer cooperation with Muslims "to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us."
Christiana Figueres, the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said religion was a guide for action.
"Islam's teachings, which emphasize the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher's role as an appointed guide to correct behavior, provide guidance to take the right action on climate change," she said in a statement.
(Writing by Alister Doyle in Oslo; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)