A new coalition of climate groups has come together to tackle climate change in the Muslim world.

Many Muslim-majority countries continue to contribute to climate change by burning fossil fuels, writes Naser Haghamed

Naser Haghamed is CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

For years now, a strange paradox has existed within the Muslim world. On the one hand, Muslims – who represent more than a fifth of the global population – live in some of the regions most affected by the changing climate; from Turkey and the Middle East with their increasingly intense droughts to the floodplains of Bangladesh and Indonesia.

On the other hand, many Muslim-majority countries continue to contribute to climate change by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil in copious amounts. With support growing rapidly among Muslims for economies powered entirely on renewable energy and several countries already leading the way, that could all be about to change.

The problem posed by climate change is so urgent that we simply cannot focus on its negative impacts without proposing concrete solutions and doing our best to implement them.

A fossil fuel-free world?

That is why, following an initial August 2015 declaration from leading Muslim thinkers calling on all followers of Islam to lead the way to a fossil fuel-free world powered entirely by renewable energy, April 2016 saw the birth of the first ever Global Muslim Climate Network (GMCN) – a coalition of Muslim climate groups including Islamic Relief Worldwide, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, GreenFaith, academic experts, Islamic scholars and philanthropists that have rallied together to tackle climate change.

The GMCN is composed of a variety of groups working in a very broad range of Muslim-majority countries. All of them have a part to play in implementing the solutions to climate change, just as all strands of society will have to work in tandem.

The ever-falling cost of solar energy in Muslim countries blessed with abundant sunshine – a new world record was set just two months ago in Abu Dhabi – means it is now cheaper and easier than ever for governments to power their economies entirely on renewable energy sources, for example.

Individual Muslims and Muslim communities are and will continue to be vital to this transition if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

With coal as one of the biggest contributors to the three million premature deaths caused annually by diseases linked to air pollution, governments and Islamic financial institutions such as the Islamic Development Bank can also contribute by shifting financial flows away from the almost 175 gigawatts’ worth of coal plants currently proposed in Muslim-majority countries and towards sustainable and clean energy, integrating the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into the Islamic financing compliance processes (PDF).

Individual Muslims and Muslim communities are and will continue to be vital to this transition if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, as 196 countries pledged to strive to do as part of last December’s Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

As part of its Clean Energy Mosques campaign, the GMCN is calling on every mosque in the world to take concrete measures to reduce its energy consumption – for example by using LED lighting with sensors and improving insulation – and switch its energy source to solar.

Such actions give mosques an opportunity not only to help tackle climate change, but also to reduce their costs.
Short and long-term plans

Countries such as Jordan and Morocco are already leading the way in this respect. Four hundred of Jordan’s 6,300 mosques were powered with solar energy last year while Morocco, home to the world’s largest concentrated solar plant, recently announced it is encouraging a staggering 600 mosques to reduce their impact on the environment and climate by 2019, 100 of which will be completed by the end of this year.

Up to 70 percent of the initial investment costs for that project are being provided by the Moroccan government’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs itself, together with the German government.

Morocco is also the host country of the COP22 conference, the next set of climate negotiations taking place next week as nations work out how to use the framework of the Paris Agreement to catalyse future action on climate change.

At the negotiations, countries will have the opportunity to make progress on longer-term plans for weaning economies off greenhouse gas-producing forms of energy generation, on plans detailing how countries will adapt to the climate change that we know we will already experience, and on a plan for financing this transition.

The economic and financial motives for stemming climate change now – before it causes even more damage – are well documented.

Climate action is also overwhelmingly a matter of living one’s Muslim faith, with its emphasis on charity, protection of human life and care for this Earth, a gift from Allah.

The Quran makes our responsibility to the Earth and each other clear when it states “And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth”, and that “Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others.”

That is why GMCN will be encouraging mosques the world over to follow the main mosque of Marrakech’s lead and devote prayers to the protection of our world in a “Green Friday” on the middle Friday of the COP22 negotiations, November 11.

Let us therefore work together to tackle climate change for the good of our economies, our people, and our faith. As the work of the GMCN aims to show, the solutions are abundant and open to us all, if only we are willing to explore them.

Naser Haghamed is CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide, an independent humanitarian and development organisation with a presence in more than 40 countries worldwide.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.