Interfaith group urges incoming administration to consider vulnerable communities
by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), via its Office of Public Witness, has joined 30 other faith communities endorsing a letter to President-elect Trump urging him and his administration to prioritize issues of climate change, the environment and justice.
Saying the group believes “the United States can and must play a leadership role in addressing these environmental challenges which threaten our planet, our security, the health of our families, and the fate of communities throughout the world,” the letter asked the new administration to work across party lines to “safeguard God’s creation, address the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.”
Key policy areas identified for action by the faith communities are greenhouse gas emissions, energy—specifically clean energy production, just transition and job creation in pursuit of a clean energy economy, climate finance, upholding international climate commitments, preserving public and sacred lands, safeguarding American Indian and Alaska Native rights, protecting endangered species, ensuring humane U.S.-Mexico border policies, and a renewed commitment to ensure all communities have access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water.
The letter ends with a request to meet with the incoming administration to discuss these issues, praying the President-elect will use his “leadership role to act together in solidarity with God’s earth and in hope for our shared future.”
The complete text of the letter is below:
Dear President-elect Trump,
As a coalition of diverse faith traditions, we are united across theological lines by our commitment to care for and be stewards of all of God’s creation and our call to serve vulnerable communities.
It is the moral responsibility of our nation, and our sacred task as people of faith, to protect our ecosystems, work for environmental justice, and address climate change. The need for global leadership could not be more urgent. We believe that the United States can and must play a leadership role in addressing these environmental challenges which threaten our planet, our security, the health of our families, and the fate of communities throughout the world. Other countries are moving forward, as evidenced at COP22 in Morocco, and it is in the U.S. interest to maintain our leadership role.
We join together to urge you – as the President-elect of the United States – to support policies that will safeguard God’s creation, address the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, and fulfill our moral obligation to future generations in the United States and internationally. In the spirit of finding common ground, we ask that you work across party lines for bipartisan solutions to the environmental challenges facing our nation.
Though we represent a broad array of theological perspectives, we are guided by shared principles of stewardship, sustainability, justice, and dialogue in addressing these critical issues.
- Stewardship: We have a responsibility to be caretakers of our natural world and to preserve our ecosystems for future generations. Creation includes all people, animals, and plants, and as such we heed the call to be faithful stewards of our entire natural world. All of God’s creatures have intrinsic worth, and many of our faith traditions specifically call us to protect all species. As stewards of God’s creation, we are charged with protecting the integrity of the web of life.
- Sustainability: We must cultivate and maintain a healthy and abundant planet that meets the needs of current and future generations. We seek to put our world on the path to a sustainable future by enabling biological and social systems that support life to thrive. To address the growing pattern of overconsumption, we prioritize systems and lifestyles of sufficiency.
- Justice: We strive for justice with the understanding that all people are children of God, but the burden of environmental degradation, pollution, and lack of access to resources falls disproportionately on marginalized communities. In the spirit of justice, we are committed to ensuring that all communities have equal access to a healthy and thriving environment and can participate in shaping a sustainable economic and environmental future.
- Dialogue: As people of faith, we are uniquely able to serve as bridge-builders by finding common ground and reaching across political divides. Protection of our environment is not the responsibility of one person or one country, but rather, must be addressed as a united global community. We are rooted in the practice of emphasizing our common values in order to advance cooperation and overcome partisanship at both the national and international levels.
In the spirit of these principles, we urge you to consider the following policy recommendations:
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Implement sector-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies that mitigate the effects of climate change and preserve our clean air. We have strongly supported the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon pollution standards for power plants under the Clean Air Act and the standards’ fair and equitable implementation. We urge you to uphold those standards. Work with Congress on bipartisan legislation that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Swiftly and dramatically reduce methane pollution from existing and future sources, including landfills, coal mines, agriculture, and oil and gas operations. Ensure that transportation and infrastructure investments prioritize emissions reductions.
- Energy: Promote policies and programs that lead our nation towards a clean energy economy. Specifically, prioritize investments in renewable energy, including research and development, economic incentives, and grid modernization. Advance policies that promote energy efficiency in our buildings, appliances, vehicles, and in our industrial operations. Provide incentives for human ingenuity and the development of new technologies for caring for and stewarding God’s creation. By doing these things, you can create jobs in local communities that grow our clean energy economy and protect our common home.
- Just Transition and Job Creation: Ensure that affected communities, including low-income and communities of color, coal regions in transition, and communities on the front lines of climate impacts, are meaningfully involved in the transition to an energy efficient, climate resilient, and clean energy economy. Clean energy solutions rooted in local communities can be an engine of job creation. Invest in U.S. renewable energy, clean transportation, and sustainable water infrastructure to create jobs, deploy clean energy for all, protect our health, and increase resilience, putting a priority on fairness and economic opportunity for the most affected Americans.
- Climate Finance: Ensure that current federal funding commitments to climate finance mechanisms are fully met today and increased in the future, in order to protect the most vulnerable communities from the harmful effects of climate change. Promote transparency, monitoring, and accountability within these funds to ensure that the commitment to finance climate adaptation for the most vulnerable is achieved. Prioritize climate finance within U.S. government agencies and U.S. supported development banks. Ensure meaningful involvement of impacted nations and communities in project selection, design, and implementation.
- International Climate Commitments: Play a leading role in the international community by fulfilling our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement. Increase global ambition by advocating for stronger NDCs in subsequent years. Continue to seek bilateral agreements to strengthen the exchange of knowledge about clean technologies and climate resilience. Implement the U.S. mid-century emissions reduction strategy to galvanize the international community to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 C°.
- Public & Sacred Lands: Protect federal public lands by keeping them publicly-owned, preserving biodiversity and helping ecosystems adapt to climate change. Manage public lands and waters to meet our climate and conservation goals, particularly by rapidly phasing down federal fossil fuel extraction, while accelerating the development of responsibly-sited clean and renewable energy that creates jobs and cuts pollution. Engage the diverse peoples of our nation in our National Parks and monuments. Provide legal protection and protect Native American sacred sites on public lands.
- American Indian and Alaska Native Rights: Safeguard tribal sovereignty, ensuring that any decisions about the tribes concerning their lands, property, and citizens are made in consultation with their full participation. While preserving the rights of the Alaska Natives under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), ensure access to lands for subsistence and development opportunities to ensure economic and cultural sustainability facilitating just transition. Stand in solidarity with the Alaska Native Gwich’in people by supporting the strongest possible protection for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Endangered Species: Champion and protect efforts to safeguard God’s creatures from extinction, including through the Endangered Species Act.
- S.-Mexico Border Policies: Ensure that border security strategies are humane and protect fragile ecosystems, endangered species, clean water, and sacred sites of the borderlands. Encourage land managers and border patrol officials to work together to find common sense solutions that do not needlessly harm our public lands along the border.
- Water: Implement measures to protect water bodies from pollutants and environmental degradation. Restore and maintain all the components of our watersheds, to ensure clean drinking water and healthy ecosystems. Water is a source of life for all creation. Access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water should be a right afforded to all, especially the most vulnerable in the U.S. and globally. Fully fund USAID programs that promote water, sanitation, and hygiene in the Global South. Manage water resources effectively, to prevent water shortages and crises that disproportionately affect people of color and low-income communities both in the U.S. and globally.
We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with your staff to discuss these recommendations. Please let us know your staff’s availability to meet in Washington, D.C.
We urge you to promote bipartisan dialogue as you seek solutions to the environmental challenges facing our nation today and into the future, challenges which are inherently nonpartisan. There is bipartisan, bicameral political will in Congress to advance legislation that will invest in clean energy, protect vulnerable communities, and mitigate and adapt to climate change. We urge you to seek common ground and partner with congressional, private sector, non-profit, and community leaders to foster strong U.S. action.
Our faiths make clear that we must act together for the common good of all people and the future of the earth. As Pope Francis noted in his recent encyclical addressing all humanity, we each must concern ourselves with the fate of our common home, and “cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.”
We call on you to embrace this common responsibility through a commitment to the principles of stewardship, sustainability, justice, and dialogue. We pray that you will use your leadership role to act together in solidarity with God’s earth and in hope for our shared future.
The Bhumi Project
Church World Service
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Creation Justice Ministries
Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Power & Light
Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Quaker Earthcare Witness
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Western American Province
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Caretakers of God’s Creation
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Young Evangelicals for Climate Action
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