Marie van der Zyl
Marie van der Zyl

As a community, we cannot bury our heads in the sand over climate change

Jewish community delegation at COP26, including Rabbi David Mason of Muswell Hill Synagogue – and EcoSynagogue co-chair, alongside Marie van der Zyl, Chief Rabbi Mirvis and Michael Wegier
Jewish community delegation at COP26, including Rabbi David Mason of Muswell Hill Synagogue – and EcoSynagogue co-chair, alongside Marie van der Zyl, Chief Rabbi Mirvis and Michael Wegier

This week, politicians from around the world have gathered in Glasgow for COP26 – a global conference to discuss nothing more or less than the future of our planet.

This is the forum at which global deals are reached, targets are set and a blueprint mapped out which we hope will stave off the climate disaster which scientists have predicted should we continue to burn fossil fuels and emit CO2 at the current rate.

However, this conference is not just for politicians. Here at COP26 there is also a forum called the Green Zone where youth groups, civil society, academia, artists, business from across the UK and all over the world have been hosting events, exhibitions, cultural performances, workshops and talks.

This is where I have been based at the stall the Board of Deputies is running with our partner organisation EcoSynagogue. We are demonstrating our determination that the Jewish community must be fully committed to doing whatever we can to be part of the solution to climate change rather than the problem.

To this end we have teamed up with EcosSynagogue, which is a unique initiative spanning the whole Jewish community with rabbinic leadership from four denominations of Judaism.

EcoSynagogue’s aim is to help ensure that, with careful attention to synagogue buildings and practices, we can launch the Jewish community towards a net zero carbon future.

EcoSynagague sets an example that we will all have to follow if we are to guide our planet towards calmer waters. Although the main work of the Board of Deputies is to represent the Jewish community on such issues as antisemitism, religious freedoms and education, we, as a community, cannot bury our heads in the sand over climate change. This is the reason the Board of Deputies passed a motion earlier this year which declared a global climate crisis and pledged us to take pledging to take action to cut carbon emissions and play our part to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Of course it would be absurd not to acknowledge that the effect of our contribution is microscopic in combatting this crisis compared to the governments of the world, but there is an important principle which transcends this. We all have a responsibility to do whatever we can. Obviously a global leader has more leverage than you or I but our world will not prevail against climate change without the active participation of all of us.

That is why this week we have been in Glasgow engaging with interfaith partners and COP26 delegates. A small team of us has been running the Board of Deputies-EcoSynagogue stall which has showcased the work of the Jewish community in this vital space.

The conclusion of the conference will not mean the end of our efforts. This weekend has been designated Eco Shabbat. We are encouraging all UK Jewish communities to use this as a way of engaging on this crucial topic. Then next Monday, we are hosting an interfaith panel discussion, bringing together many of the Eco-initiatives across the faiths – EcoSynagogue, Eco Church, Eco Congregations, Eco Islam, Eco Sikh and Bhumi Global. This event will emphasise that we will all need to cooperate and work together if we are to prevail.

Climate change, as we have seen in the extreme weather events of the past few years, affects the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities disproportionately, destroying lives and taking away livelihoods. We have a religious and a humanitarian duty to act now while we still can.

 

About the Author
Marie van der Zyl is the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
Comments