Environment Ministers from more than 50 Muslim countries have come up with a joint declaration on environmental protection and sustainable development. At the 6th Islamic Conference in Morocco, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) convened to discuss ways to combat climate change and deal with obstacles to sustainable development.
In the declaration, countries were urged to commit to a number of key goals. These included pursuing green economies, raising awareness about the importance of eradicating poverty, creating a new energy operating system, and adopting standards for good practices in sustainable governance.
“Climate change is a serious threat, especially to the developing world. It is only through collective action that we will overcome one of the pressing challenges of our generation,” said OIC secretary general Iyad Ameen Madani, who is the former Information Minister of Saudi Arabia.
Global warming is due to have drastic effects in the Middle East. A recently published study in the journal Natural Climate Change predicts that countries in the Arabian Gulf and parts of Iran will be uninhabitable in the future due to extreme heatwaves predicted to sweep over the region after 2070.
Professor Elfatih Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who co-conducted the study, said, “We would hope that information like this would be helpful in making sure there is interest [in cutting carbon emissions] for the countries in the region. They have a vital interest in supporting measures that would help reduce the concentration of CO2 in the future.”
The OIC, founded in 1969, is the second largest inter-governmental organization in the world and includes some of the world’s least developed countries. It includes conflict-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq and huge resource-dependent states such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Developing nations are most vulnerable to global warming, and while some wealthier oil-rich Muslim countries might be able to afford protection against rising temperatures, poor countries like Yemen will suffer.
Food security also remains a critical issue in many of the OIC member states. Famines have occurred in Somalia and Mali in the last five years, and environment-linked disasters have led to widespread poverty in Bangladesh, which was ranked by the World Bank as one of the 12 countries most vulnerable to climate change.
Conserving the environment has a distinct place in Islamic thought as the religion prioritizes meeting the needs of present and future generations without destroying natural balance or excluding any segments of society. A form of sustainable development within Islam that has gained traction in recent years is Islamic finance, in which financial institutions are governed by both Islamic law and regular banking rules.
At the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, Chief Economist of the Islamic Development Bank Savas Alpay said, “In mobilizing resources for the Sustainable Development Goals, non-traditional sources of financing need to be given due attention. In this context, Islamic finance is offering a very promising alternative.”
The Bank announced in July that it would be increasing development assistance to more than USD$150 billion to support short- and long-term environmental, social and economic projects in member states of the OIC.
While the OIC declaration is not legally binding to member states, it is an important rallying call in a region that has not taken a strong lead in the climate debate.