• Metropolitan Emmanuel, Vice president of the Conference of European Churches, speaking during the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative in Oslo, Norway. (Lise Aserud/NTB Scanpix via AP)Source: Lise Aserud/NTB Scanpix via AP
Religious and Indigenous leaders have called for an end to deforestation in the first international multi-faith, multicultural plea to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change.
20 Jun 2017 - 11:40 AM  UPDATED 20 Jun 2017 - 11:43 AM

Participants from 21 countries gathered at a conference in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Monday, hoping that billions of people of faith worldwide unite to protect the Earth's rainforests.

Hosting the one-day meeting, Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen said that halting deforestation requires "a global, tectonic shift in values."

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples said: "forest communities around the world have put their lives on the line to care for the planet's tropical forests".

"We are nothing without our forests. Our culture, our spirituality, our livelihoods, our incomes and our health are tied to them," she added.

The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative was launched by the Scandinavian country, as Norway has made reducing tropical deforestation one of its top international priorities, with investments of some $3 billion in the past decade.

Rainforests are fundamental to human life, but are suffering from agricultural and industrial exploitation in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

"In [the last] decade, the scientific case, the economic case, and the geopolitical case for ending deforestation has only grown… More is needed," Mr Helgesen said.

"It is not the realm of policy, commerce or science, but of spirit, faith, and moral conviction."

Tropical rainforests are home to most of the Earth's biodiversity. They help regulate rainfall and temperature globally and regionally, as well as provide food, water, and income to 1.6 billion people.

The conference discussed that the rapid decrease in tropical rainforests has been fuelled by palm oil plantations, cattle, soy and crop production, as well as "rapacious and often illegal mining and logging operations." Participants heard the reduction of the rainforests amounted to an area the size of Austria, or nearly 84,000 square kilometres.

Those at the meeting included representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu faiths, and Indigenous leaders, including ones from Indonesia and Brazil.