Ahead of COP26, faith institutions are leading the way and showing the world that now is the time to commit to meaningful, long-term action for our common home.

Nearly 70 faith institutions representing hundreds of millions of faithful worldwide have joined the new “Faith Long-Term Plans” initiative organized by FaithInvest, the International Network for Conservation and Religion, and the World Wildlife Fund’s Beliefs and Values Program.

The project was launched only months ago, but already, more faith institutions have joined the program than did a similar effort 12 years ago.

That project helped create about 60 long-term plans and new organizations and networks that continue to inspire today.

“The one thing that all faith groups share is the belief that we don’t own this planet; we’re custodians,” said Dr. Lorna Gold, Director of Movement Building for FaithInvest and the Acting Chair for the Global Catholic Climate Movement Board of Directors.

“In the Catholic tradition, certainly Pope Francis has really awakened us through Laudato Si’ to that responsibility.”

FaithInvest and their partners see the potential for dozens more groups to join the effort this year as momentum grows worldwide to care for creation through the lowering of carbon emissions and embracing increasingly-affordable green technology, including solar panels and wind turbines.

“This is really about the faith voices coming together and raising that ambition,” Gold said.

“Throughout the world’s population, 80 percent of people belong to faith communities… if even half of those main religious groups signed up to be truly committed to this effort, you’re talking a significant percentage of the world’s population.”

The year 2021 is full of opportunities for institutions and governments to commit to the care of creation. In November, COP26 will be hosted in Glasgow.

It will be the first UN Conference of Parties to take place since some countries submitted their climate plans.

The meeting also will be a chance for nations to strengthen ambition to help limit global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as laid out in the historic 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

“It’s about the faith groups expressing publicly and demonstrating how they’re going…  to be a part of that massive global turnaround,” Gold said.

“After COVID and coming out of the COVID crisis, there’s a real opportunity here to reshape how we do things in ways that contribute to [caring for creation].”

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For Catholic institutions, the Faith Long-Term Plans coincide with a Vatican-led effort to  empower Catholic institutions, communities, and families to implement Laudato Si’.

The Vatican initiative was announced last May at the start of the Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year, which celebrates the fifth anniversary of the encyclical’s publication. An initial version of the program will be available in May of this year.

Catholic and faith institutions are “putting in real commitments for real change,” said Pippa Arnold, FaithInvest Events Organizer.

She is leading a series of webinars that walk institutions through the process of creating a long-term plan. The plans feature seven key areas, but institutions can decide which areas they’d like to focus on and for how long, such as five years or even 15 years, Arnold said.

“We really try to keep it quite open so they can focus on the areas of most importance to them,” she said.

Gold added that FaithInvest and other groups are eager to help institutions put their values into action today.

“The key thing… is to keep it simple and to get started, to really look at where your faith community can start on this journey and contribute and be part of this really exciting effort to engage all the faiths in doing what Pope Francis has really told us we really need to be doing, which is to care for our common home,” she said.

Faith institutions are encouraged to go to faithinvest.org/faith-long-term-plans to get started today.