At the outset I would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the Kuwaiti government and the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs for organising this conference. I may add that I know His Excellency the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United Kingdom very well and see him from time to time.
I was the first Muslim to be appointed a member of the House of Lords by the Conservative Party. I am very active in the House of Lords and have spoken in the House of Lords on a variety of subjects. In fact over the last year I have spoken on 27 different subjects. I am passionate about the preservation of the environment and in fact when I was elevated to the House of Lords my maiden speech was on the environment and subsequently I have taken part in debates and discussions on climate change in the British parliament.
I was brought up in a multifaith and multicultural country where I learned to speak several languages and respect the views of other communities. I am a great believer in promoting interfaith and inter-racial dialogue whereby there is more understanding between people of different cultural and racial backgrounds. I have promoted this philosophy not only in the UK but in other countries which I have visited. It is important that people talk to each other to create better understanding and dispel misconceptions. I am a practising Muslim but I believe there are more similarities between people than differences and a lot can be achieved if there is constructive dialogue. I am therefore very pleased to see here today representatives from different parts of the world and from Japan. I have a great deal of respect and affection for the Japanese as they have a very old culture and care very much about everything which is beautiful. Their love for nature is appreciated by everyone.
Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. The rising global temperatures will bring changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and more instances of extreme weather. The changes that are occurring are mainly due to human behaviour and the effects are estimated to have a larger impact on the climate as time goes on.
The problems that we face are global and thus we need to find global solutions to them that incorporate all of the countries in the world working together to try and combat climate change. The Islamic world with the government and people of Japan need to work in harmony in order to combat the problems and find the right solutions. The fact that the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in Japan underlines the fact that the Japanese are highly committed to improving the state of the environment.
There will now be a meeting of the G20 countries in London in April where the environmental issue I’m sure will be discussed and we are all looking forward to the meeting in Copenhagen later in the year. I am certain that Japan and the Muslim countries will play a vital role in these discussions and hope that effective agreements will be reached.
In the United Kingdom, large steps have been taken to try and address the problem of climate change. In November 2008 the Climate Change Bill was passed and thus became part of the law of the country as the Climate Change Act. I was actually involved in the discussions when the bill was heard in the House of Lords.
The Act states that the United Kingdom will attempt to achieve an 80% reduction in six different greenhouse gases by the year 2050 and also set a target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by at least 26% by 2020 against a 1990 baseline.
In passing the Climate Change Act, the United Kingdom became the first country to set up a long-range carbon target into law. I sincerely hope that many other countries follow the lead of the United Kingdom and make serious moves towards reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
We can look at the issue of climate change in an economic perspective. Moving to a low carbon economy would greatly help the economy concerned. Firstly it would create thousands of jobs, raise skills and improve the competitiveness of the country as a whole.
Secondly, decarbonising the economy will guarantee any country’s security. The country then does not have to rely on the importation of fossil fuels from other countries. The third benefit would be that decarbonising the economy will help us protect our environment for future generations.
I am now going to look at Islam and the environment. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:
‘The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it.’
This emphasises the fact that in Islam, the conservation of the environment is based on the principle that all the individual components of the environment were created by God, and that all living things were created with different functions. Furthermore in Islam humans are expected to protect the environment since no other creature is able to perform this task. Humans are the only beings that Allah has entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the Earth.
I would also like to quote another saying from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) which is:
“When doomsday comes, if someone has a palm shoot in his hand he should plant it”
I would now like to state that Hasrat Abu Bakr, the first Caliph of Islam instructed his armies not to harm women and children. Furthermore he instructed them not to harm animals, destroy crops or cut down trees. This proves the fact that Hasrat Abu Bakr realised the value of nature and the importance of the preservation of the environment.
Climate change is possibly the biggest threat to life on the planet, and most of the effects are likely to be felt in Muslim majority countries. For example there may be future water crises in the Middle East, flooding in Bangladesh, desertification of sub-Sahara Africa, submergence of the Maldives and much more. All of this will lead to more wars and produce environmental refugees.
In addition to reducing our current levels of emissions we also need to look at alternative methods of producing energy as we have to reduce our reliance on the burning of fossil fuels. There are various methods as to how we can achieve this and some of these methods are already in use.
We need to increase our level of investment and carry out more research and undertake projects whereby energy is produced by biofuels, solar power, wind power, hydropower and geothermals.
I would like to begin by talking about biofuels which are derived from recently living organisms such as plants and animal waste and the energy source is based on the carbon cycle. Biofuel industries are expanding in Europe, Asia and the Americas but even still we need to see further implementation of biofuel production around the globe.
Solar energy has an enormous amount of potential. The manufacture of solar cells has expanded dramatically in recent years but we are only harnessing a miniscule fraction of the available solar energy. There is therefore a lot of room for expansion in solar technology and we need to increase its use.
Wind power is another form of renewable energy that we can look into. As of right now, the United States leads the way in onshore installed wind power capacity and the United Kingdom has the largest offshore wind capacity. The world needs to explore the possibility of increasing this form of energy production.
Hydropower is the most commonly used form of renewable energy. Hydroelectricity accounted for around 19% of the world’s electricity in 2005. Even though it is commonly used there are more potential sites that can be developed to generate hydroelectricity.
Tidal power is the conversion of the energy of tides into other forms of power, mainly electricity. It is not widely used but also has the potential for expansion.
Nuclear power is another form of energy production that is not renewable but is an alternative to fossil fuels. In 2007 nuclear power provided 14% of the world’s electricity, and it makes up 20% of the United Kingdom’s electricity. There are several nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom that are scheduled to close by 2015 but the government has approved plans for new nuclear power plants to be built. The production of energy by nuclear power does however lead to controversy.
I would now like to refer to the issue of carbon capture and storage. It is still a relatively new concept and one that I feel needs to be investigated further.
Carbon emissions trading is another issue which I feel needs to be discussed. The trade of carbon emissions has been increasing in recent years. The trouble with this is that it reduces the necessity to greatly improve carbon emissions as countries or companies can spend money in order to cover their shortcomings.
We need to look at what we as people can do. Climate change unites us all and each and every one of us will suffer if we allow runaway increases in our emissions to further damage an already ailing atmosphere. We all need to protect our forests and everything green. We can undertake home improvements and cut down on energy wastage as well as recycle as much as possible.
We must remember that few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the end, the combination of all of those small acts will result in a big difference being made.