During the UN climate talks COP21 in Paris, a delegation of faith leaders and climate change activists met with President François Hollande.
During the UN climate talks COP21 : in Paris, a delegation of faith leaders and climate change activists met with President François Hollande. Credit: Sean Hawkey


The President of France Francois Hollande today praised the efforts of campaigners and faith leaders who personally delivered to him a collection of petitions containing over 1.8 million signatures calling for climate justice.

François Hollande received the international petitions at a special reception held at the Presidential Palace in Paris. They were presented by a delegation that included the Philippines’ leading climate activist Yeb Saño, Bishop of Salisbury (UK) the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Auxiliary Bishop of Brasília the Most Rev Leonardo Steiner and Dr Ghaleb Bencheikh, President of Religions for Peace – France,

The 20 guests at the event represented the four faith-based networks who led the petition campaign – ACT Alliance, OurVoices, Religions for Peace and the Global Catholic Climate Movement – as well as other organisations that helped to gather the 1,833,973 signatures worldwide.

At the ceremony, François Hollande thanked the group, saying he was pleased to receive them “just a few hours before the end of the climate conference”. “We must protect the planet… Through the petitions, through the walks and pilgrimages, you have committed to defend life,” he said.

The President then spoke of the importance of bringing together religious leaders of all faiths to protect the world’s “common heritage”. He said: “It is necessary that all citizens engage and mobilise, like you have done. 

“This is the least we should hope for… Your example has paved the way, through all the walks and pilgrimages, together with these petitions. I hope they will have as much influence as possible while we’re still negotiating the agreement.”

Mr Hollande reminded the inter-faith group that that the primary role of the conference negotiators was to “deal with the future of the planet.” He told them: “It is a responsibility that we can’t walk away from… Your message, your petitions, must be heard, and this voice you’re bringing, must be listened to.”

Climate pilgrims from across the world were represented by Yeb Saño, leader of the People’s Pilgrimage and an ambassador for OurVoices. He told the President: “As a way to express faith communities’ deep sense of urgency regarding the climate crisis, we embarked on pilgrimages from all over the world … spreading hope for the future of humanity and hope for COP21, carrying the message of climate justice and our solidarity as one human family. 

“Altogether we journeyed the distance of close to 300,000 kilometres, including a group that I personally joined from the Vatican to Paris. We also cycled over 7,000km from Mozambique to Kenya, pushing the climate justice flag high and collecting thousands of signatures on the way… As pilgrims we walked and cycled together out of sense of justice, love, faith and hope that we can build a better future together. We are honoured to be walking with you on this journey.”

On behalf of ACT Alliance, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam explained why the groups had united to call for a fair and ambitious deal. He remarked: “People of all faiths urge all partiers to agree on a Paris deal applicable to all. Following the acts of terrorism in this city we want the world to act together, in care of our common home.

“For it to be ambitious, the agreement must include a long-term goal drastically cutting the world’s carbon footprint and making the transition to clean energy. The island states in particular need a limit of 1.5 Celsius. It must also have a tool to review and increase countries’ contributions, to review and increase ambitions as gaps arise.

“When they go home, governments must actually start to deliver a low-carbon future. On this, Human Rights Day, a fair deal must provide robust transparency rules, make a firm commitment to deliver $100bn climate finance to the poor, with the anchoring of the Warsaw International Mechanism on loss and damage in the Paris agreement.”

Representing the Global Catholic Climate Movement the Most Rev Leonardo Steiner, Secretary General of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, voiced his solidarity in the wake of the Paris attacks and highlighted the success of the petition campaign. “As faith representatives we are very happy to be here to bring to you our firm petition for climate justice,” he said.

“Through the campaigns of the organisations, we collected more than 1.8 signatures of believers around the world. We are extremely concerned by the common crisis, but we know that everything is not lost… thank you very much for listening to our plea for climate justice.”

Dr Ghaleb Bencheikh, President of Religions for Peace – France, spoke about the need to work for an end to conflict, in order to “build a future with a sound environment for mankind”. He said: “Religious tradition brings hope within misery. Now we are facing a climate challenge, we are acting for peace and for the future of mankind.”

He then told the President: “We admire you for what you are doing because, under your auspices, we hope that this negotiation will bring about a future for coming generations.”

Also present at the Paris ceremony were representatives from the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, We Have Faith, the Lutheran World Federation, and the ‘Bhumi Project’ at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, as well as climate pilgrims from Britain, Scandinavia and Germany.

The petitions were originally presented to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and the French President’s Special Envoy for the Protection of the Planet, Nicolas Hulot, on November 28 in Saint-Denis, northern Paris. Delivering the opening remarks today, Mr Hulot told the delegation: “The President did not hesitate at all to receive you, as you bring the fruits of your pilgrimages”.


Notes to Editors:

High-res images are available from (Credit: Sean Hawkey/WCC)
For more information please contact Tomilola Ajayi:

About the four networks who organised the petitions:

Religions for Peace, est. 1970, is the world’s largest multi-religious coalition that works to advance peace.

ACT Alliance is a coalition of 137 churches and affiliated organisations: it runs the ACT Now For Climate Justice campaign.

OurVoices is run under the auspices of The Conservation Foundation in the UK and GreenFaith in the USA.

Global Catholic Climate Movement represents thousands of Catholics responding to the Papal encyclical.