Environment, religion and culture in the context of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development

United Nations Environment Programme (2016)

Critical action is needed by the international community to address urgent and increasing environmental degradation, and related challenges of social and economic unsustainability. Religion and culture can significantly address climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, pollution, deforestation, desertification and unsustainable land and water use, and other urgent issues identified in a shared vision by all nations in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Through integrating environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda, religious and cultural communities can also promote strong, inclusive, green, sustainable and transformative economies, based on circularity, sharing and collaboration, and alternative measures of growth and wellbeing. They can be instrumental in educating for more sustainable lifestyles and behaviours to achieve sustainable consumption and production, and in considering the impact of their actions on others. They can significantly contribute to ending extreme poverty, leaving no one behind when addressing multi-dimensional poverty and related challenges such as the rights of women, youth and minorities, and access for all to basic services. They can promote innovative nature-based solutions, respect for traditional knowledge and cultural diversity, exercise environmental stewardship and duty of care, build an ethic of global and local citizenship, promote good governance, tolerance, and reconciliation, and build safe, inclusive and peaceful societies. It has become more urgent than ever to promote and disseminate morals, values, behaviours and creative solutions conducive to attaining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This universal agenda, and the emerging understanding of the points of religious agreement in environmental ethics, can be the corner stones for a common vision that enhances the role of religion and culture in achieving sustainability. Inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue can converge on a few insights, among them that of nature as sacred, and the rights of nature, both of which are shared by most organized religions and indigenous peoples, and many natural scientists. Among the many positive actions – large and small – are the 2030 Agenda and SDGs, and the Paris Climate Change. Agreement

the actions of faith based declarations and statements, especially in relation to climate change

the actions of indigenous cultural leaders in support of greater rights and respect of cultural diversity

and the 7 million voices that engaged in vision setting in the run up to the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. These have all come together in a historic year of 2015, and provide tremendous opportunities for building a global partnership for shifting the paradigm and addressing the crucial challenges of our era, both for humanity today as well as for future generations.

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