The campaign against climate change got a dash of spiritual stardust on Wednesday as representatives of the world’s leading faiths gathered at Windsor Castle at the invitation of the Duke of Edinburgh to discuss the role of religion in protecting the planet ahead of next month’s crucial environment summit in Copenhagen.

Addressing the gathering, which included representatives of the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Buddhist faiths, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urged politicians to take inspiration from spiritual leaders to “act more courageously” in meeting the challenge of climate change.

His message to faith leaders was that they should bring the weight of their moral authority to press politicians to work harder to ensure that a deal on climate change was reached at Copenhagen.

“Science has made it quite clear, plainly clear, that this climate change is happening and accelerating much, much faster than one realises. We have knowhow, we have resources but the only vacuum is political will. You can inspire, you can provoke, you can challenge your leaders, through your wisdom, through your followers,” he said.

Mr. Ban frequently deviated from the text to stress the role of religion in fighting climate change. He said that when governments, civil society and religious communities worked together it was much easier to achieve a goal.

Describing faith leaders as the “third largest category of investors in the world”, Mr. Ban said: “Indeed, the world’s faith communities occupy a unique position in discussions on the fate of our planet and the accelerating impacts of climate change. You are the leaders who can have the largest, widest and deepest reach. Together the major faith groups have established, run or contribute to more than half of all schools worldwide. You are the third largest category of investors in the world. You produce more weekly magazines and newspapers than all the secular press in the European Union. Your potential impact is enormous.” The conference was organised by Alliance of Religions and Conservation, set up by the Duke in 1995, and the UN Development Programme.