The ICE Network (Inter-religious Climate and Ecology Network) is a pan-Asia, local-to-local, collaborative network of diverse spiritual communities seeking to share experiences, learning, and wisdom that will build resilience and empowerment in the face of climate change. Our purpose is to wisely influence national public policy within Asia and to stimulate and strengthen diplomatic discussions around climate change at international level. We aim to do this in cooperation with various stakeholders, such as faith-based and civil society organizations, gender and age based groups, and business networks. We seek to encourage healing in a world struggling with equality and vulnerability, both intensified by climate change.
Background and Rationale
International forums on climate change tend to focus on legal arrangements and technical considerations. In all of these discussions, an important point is often ignored. The climate crisis is rooted in human behavior. It is driven by ever increasing consumption, the belief that more material possessions will lead to greater happiness, and a lack of mindfulness about the consequences of our actions. Our current systems reflect our inner values and our beliefs about our relationship with the living world. Climate change is a moral issue, and the climate crisis, which we have created together, requires a shared ethical response.
Religious teachers and institutions are beginning to come forward to provide the necessary moral and ethical leadership. An African inter-religious campaign called “We Have Faith” was represented at the 17th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 17) in Durban, South Africa. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) passed a resolution at its 2012 World Conservation Congress inviting closer cooperation with the faith sector on climate and biodiversity advocacy. At the UNFCC COP 18 in Doha, Qatar, religious leaders had a series of meetings and prepared a “Call to Action on Climate Change.” While the statement is still in draft form, participants all agreed that, “As faith leaders and organisations, we must be at the forefront of challenging the current human behaviour which is wreaking havoc with the planet’s climate and threatens to pitch us into centuries of conflict and suffering.”
ICE emerged from The Inter-religious Dialogue on Climate Change and Biodiversity Conservation, an international conference that was held in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in September 2012 through the collaborative efforts of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), the Sewalanka Foundation, IUCN, and the Commission on Environmental Economic and Social Policy (CEESP).
More than 150 religious leaders, environmental scientists, and social activists representing 20 countries in Asia and beyond met to explore:
- The scientific foundations of climate change and biodiversity loss,
- Its social, political, and economic drivers,
- The impacts of climate change on human societies and the environment, and
- The underlying human behaviours which contribute to climate change.
They shared teachings and experiences from Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Baha’i, and Asian Animist traditions. (See Appendix 1 for participating organizations.)
Together, a common understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change was articulated. An emphasis was placed on the urgent need to address inner spiritual values as they relate to our human stewardship and interconnected care and protection for our natural environment. The prevailing attitudes across religious communities which contribute to a failure of our responsibility towards the living world were critically examined. These attitudes support behaviours and actions that accelerate and exacerbate our current climate crisis, and contribute to human vulnerability to the increasing impacts of climate change. Structural impasses were also cited as an area that also must be urgently rectified, most alarmingly the absence of an international binding agreement for reduction of Green House Gas emissions.
Parent Organization: INEB
The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) has a more than 20-year history of strengthening transnational networks and organizing educational programs. The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) began in 1989 when Thai social activist Sulak Sivaraksa convened an international group of thinkers and activists to discuss socially engaged spirituality. Over the years, an understanding of socially engaged Buddhism has emerged which integrates spiritual practice with social action for an environmentally healthy, just, and peaceful world. The network has expanded to include individuals and organizations in more than 30 countries on 6 continents. INEB members work in a decentralized manner on a wide range of issues. Members also support one another by collaborating on common projects and joint strategic planning. The Secretariat in Thailand maintains a flow of information and support and coordinates joint activities and programs. INEB’s mission is to develop the paradigm and practice of socially engaged spirituality. Network members share a commitment to social action that is rooted in spiritual practice and insight. The objectives of the INEB Secretariat are to:
- Serve as an information resource on engaged spirituality and issues of concern
- Facilitate events and programs that support and strengthen socially engaged individuals and groups and help them respond effectively to structural suffering
- Promote understanding, exchange, cooperation, and collaboration between Buddhist communities and inter-faith social action groups
Despite the designation as a Buddhist organization, interfaith activities are a major part of INEB programs. In collaboration with its global partners, INEB has focused on peace building, youth non-violence training, cultural diversity and conflict resolution. Over the years, INEB has accumulated experiences in mobilizing interfaith networks to actively engage with policy and practices to promote good governance, sustainability, equity, justice and compassion for the suffering of human beings around the world.