Creation Justice Ministries Celebrates the Introduction of Landmark “Environmental Justice for All Act”
February 27, 2020
Creation Justice Ministries applauds the historic Environmental Justice for All Act put forward today by US House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.).
We know that we are entrusted by God with care for creation and love of neighbor. The transformative change envisioned by this bill is a crucial step forward as a nation to better embody and live out both principles. We especially affirm the following aspects of the Environmental Justice for All Act:
Creation Justice Ministries affirms the dignity of all God’s children, and therefore we lift up our moral imperative to seek environmental justice for people of every race, economic status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian traditions, including Baptist, mainline Protestant, Historically Black, Peace, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at www.creationjustice.org
Contact: Shantha Ready Alonso, Executive Director 202-618-2501 (mobile)
Testimony by Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore on Proposed Rollbacks to the National Environmental Policy Act
Good evening, members of the Council on Environmental Quality.
My name is Bishop Carroll Baltimore. I am Vice President of Creation Justice Ministries representing the policies of more than two dozen Christian denominations that join together to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation. Through our membership, we serve approximately 100,000 churches and 35 million people.
We have grave moral concerns regarding potential changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Proposed revisions to NEPA are inconsistent with NEPA’s central purposes. Among those purposes are three that people of faith hold with special regard:
These purposes of NEPA mirror Christian community values embodied in Jesus’ Great Commandment: to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
By loving our Creator God, we show respect for what God has made. We are entrusted with the care of creation for our short lifetimes, and to ensure the gifts of God’s creation can sustain life for our children and generations to come. NEPA helps our society evaluate how development will impact God’s creation.
The NEPA process gives us, on a societal level, an opportunity to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It requires project planners to listen to those who could be most impacted by a proposed project, including the most vulnerable. If a project will hurt neighbors by making it hard for them to breathe, drink safe water, grow food, catch fish, or freely practice their religious faith, it is our shared moral responsibility to show love for our neighbors by preventing harm from a project.
As Christian communities, we often find ourselves on the front lines of response to emergencies. We rally resources with compassion to respond to devastating circumstances. Some of the most devastating emergencies in our recent ministry are related to short-circuiting or undermining of the NEPA process.
April 20, 2020 will mark 10 years since the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. BP and other oil companies developing offshore drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico were exempt from standard NEPA planning processes. In its wake, we ministered to fisherman families not only seeking new ways to support themselves, but also devastated by the loss of identity after generations of family business out in the midst of God’s magnificent marine creation in the Gulf. Now, in addition to the Trump Administration’s proposals to expand offshore drilling, this proposal to weaken NEPA means offshore drilling can proceed with little to no review. It would limit the information the government has to evaluate the impact on endangered marine mammals, coral reefs, and coastal ecosystem protection and restoration. Ten years later, have we learned nothing from the suffering from Deepwater Horizon?
We have also witnessed the devastation of Native American burial grounds and sacred sites as a result of an ignored or undermined NEPA process. As Christians, we stand with people of all spiritual traditions to defend their religious freedom. Right now, the wall construction area on the US-Mexico border is a virtually lawless zone where NEPA requirements are waived. As a result, the Tohono O’Odham Tribe burial grounds are being bulldozed this month. Chairman of the Tohono O’Odham Ned Norris said, “There is no difference between what they have done here and imagine someone coming with a bulldozer through Arlington National Cemetery.” Additional sites sacred to the tribe are under immediate threat as construction continues. Some religious leader delegations have gone to the border to witness this tragedy, and call on Congress to intervene. This feels like a repetition of just a few years ago, when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe watched with horror as their sacred burial grounds were bulldozed to make way for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Faith communities organized to send camp supplies such as firewood, and provide peaceful public support. Just when we thought the NEPA worked to prevent any further damage from proceeding to the river they depend on for bodily and spiritual sustenance, the Trump Administration overrode the result. We were deeply troubled by the expedited review process to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and its opening for leasing. The coastal plain of the Refuge, which is the site of the Gwich’in creation story, and is what they call “the sacred place where life begins.”
If we are to follow Jesus’ Great Commandment, we need structures in place to respect what God has made and to show our neighbors love. Any proposed NEPA changes should enhance our ability as a society to live in the spirit of Jesus’ Great Commandment, not undermine, expedite, or exempt anyone from it.
Each week during the Season of Creation, we are focusing on one part of our shared ministry for God's Creation. This week, we focus on climate.
Thanks to the leadership of young people, climate change is in the public spotlight with a major Climate Strike planned for Friday, September 20. Some of our members and partners have created faith resources for the Climate Strike.
About Our Work
The Creation Justice community roots our climate justice ministry in ecumenical Faith Principles on Climate Change. Educating, equipping, and mobilizing faith communities about climate issues and climate solutions has taken on many forms. In addition to our curricula, we have facilitated dozens of workshops at churches and religious conferences on topics such as "Faith for Energy Equity," "Climate Justice and Christianity," and "Just Transition in Appalachia." We advocate to uphold public policies that help protect vulnerable communities from climate change, and we support our members that participate in international climate negotiations.
Looking Ahead to 2020
I am excited to announce our Earth Day Sunday 2020 theme will be "The Fierce Urgency of Now." It will mark 50 years since the first Earth Day, offer theological reflection on our Kairos moment, encourage people to become Creation Care Voters, as well as help faith communities interpret dire reports we have seen from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Also, Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2020 theme is: Imagine! God's Earth and People Restored. This annual conference will take place April 24-27, 2020, bringing together nearly 1,000 Christians in Washington, DC. Creation Justice Ministries is once again on the planning team. We hope you can come!
Many people of faith are unaware that their faith communities have been active on climate issues for decades. It is both sobering and fascinating to see faith perspectives on climate issues from the early 1990s in the National Religious Partnership for the Environment film God's Creation and Global Warming.
This week, take a faithful stand for God's creation and our health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to roll back methane pollution standards that require oil and gas industrial operations to plug leaks. Methane is a fast-acting dangerous greenhouse gas, and the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that come with methane leaks disproportionately cause devastating illnesses in vulnerable communities. When you press the "Take Action" button, you will get a form letter to President Trump and Administrator Wheeler. This action alert is a shared effort by Creation Justice Ministries and Interfaith Power and Light.
Take ActionFeatured Education Resources: The Next Generation Rises With education, prayer, preaching and action resources, honor the ways young people are leading the way to protect, restore, and more rightly share God's creation.
Other climate education resources of interest include African Americans and Climate Change, Sustainable Food in a Changing Climate, Ethics of Energy, and the report Climate and Church: How Global Climate Change Will Impact Core Church Ministries
Climate Partner to Watch: Interfaith Power and Light
Creation Justice Ministries frequently partners with Interfaith Power and Light, which provides a religious response to global warming through 40 state affiliates.
President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that calls for a rewrite of the Clean Power Plan, the policy intended to be a blueprint for reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants by nearly 30 percent from 2005 levels. The Clean Power Plan was the mechanism for the United States to meet its carbon emissions reduction targets under the Paris climate agreement. The Executive Order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions. Here are some Christian communities' responses to the Administration's action. (We will continue updating this page as more statements become available.)
It has never been more important to make our voices heard at the People's Climate March on April 29 in Washington, DC. Join us: www.creationjustice.org/climatemarch
CHURCH WORLD SERVICE (read in full)
"By cutting back programs specifically designed to reduce carbon emissions, further damage — potentially irreparable — will be done to God’s Earth; this in turn, will place hundreds of thousands more of already at-risk communities in harm’s way. As a faith based organization on the front lines of responding to climate change in many countries around the world, including the United States, CWS is painfully aware of the additional burdens that these policies will cause."
CREATION JUSTICE MINISTRIES (read in full)
As Christians, we are first responders to climate damage. Disaster relief ministries struggle to meet challenges of rising floodwaters, merciless wildfires, and harsher storms. Hunger relief ministries seek to respond to severe droughts and disrupted access to food. Health ministries are dealing with higher rates of asthma and increased vector-borne diseases. We have a moral duty to prevent more harm. As caretakers of God’s creation, we are accountable to our Maker for sustaining the needs of current and future generations. As such, we call upon the Administration to re-examine its actions under this executive order and to remain true to its stated commitment of protecting the environment.
CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST) STATEMENT (read in full)
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), said of the executive order, “As Disciples, we are committed to bringing wholeness to a fragmented world. This recent executive order will do the opposite. Failure to care for our climate harms the most vulnerable among us — children, older adults, people who don’t have the luxury of being able to move away from pollution, and those suffering from respiratory and other illnesses. I call upon the Administration to re-examine its actions and to remain true to its stated commitment of protecting clean air.”
EPISCOPAL CHURCH BISHOPS' STATEMENT (read in full)
"We live in a moment that demands urgent action. In the Episcopal Church alone, our members are already experiencing hunger, drought, and human loss due to climate change. From the Alaska Native Gwich’in hunter facing food insecurity as winter approaches to the Navajo grandmother praying for drought relief, Episcopalians are eager to confront our changing climate through local action and national policy."
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA (read in full)
"We call upon the Administration to re-examine its actions under this executive order and to proceed with extreme caution. We also call upon the Administration to remain true to its stated commitment of protecting the environment and to base all actions on principles of stewardship, sustainability, and justice."
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA) STATEMENT (read in full)
Rev. Jimmie Ray Hawkins, Director of the Office of Public Witness of the PC(USA) said, "As people of faith who believe in a God of creation who commands good and proper stewardship of this gift, we must speak with one voice that this world is worth protecting. We affirm that climate change is real and impacted by the actions of human beings. We can protect the environment and affirm the dignity of work as we come together to produce solutions which enhance all aspects of created life. But environmental justice must be a priority or we will not have a future to work towards. 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,… and God saw that it was good.' (Gen 1:1; 10b)"
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST (read in full)
In 2013, the United Church of Christ became the first religious organization to call for the divestment of funds from companies that primarily profit from fossil fuels. We believe this to be a theological imperative, a faithful response to a theological emergency. We believe that the current rate of fossil fuel consumption is a death trap from which we will not escape without deep commitments to significant changes. The modest steps taken by the previous administration to comply with the Paris Accords were helpful and necessary. Recent actions by the Administration to rollback environmental protections and responsible measures to address climate change are seen by us as a crime against humanity – an act that ensures the ongoing destruction of the planet and endangers future generations on whose behalf we are charged with stewarding God’s creation. The response of the faith community must be proportional to the threat. Because climate change makes all other injustice worse, now is the time for us to step up.
CATHOLIC CLIMATE COVENANT (read full text)
"The administration claims that these new orders will create jobs and grow the economy. The fact is, however, that those who work in energy conservation and renewable energy are already experiencing an economic boom. Government policies should support the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. As Pope Francis emphasizes, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy” (Laudato Si’ 26)."
JESUIT CONFERENCE OF THE US AND CANADA (read full text)
"We know the effects of climate change are borne by the most vulnerable people, whether at home or around the world. Increasing floods, droughts, food and water insecurity, and conflict over declining resources are all making the lives of the world's poorest people even more precarious. Pope Francis in Laudato Si', laments the widespread indifference to 'a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation.' Catholic Relief Services echoed this concern in a recent report noting, 'As arable land and water become increasingly scarce, conflict looms, along with the potential for migration from the most affected countries and a repetitive cycle of costly emergency response.'"
SISTERS OF MERCY (read full text)
“Our sisters in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Philippines who are experiencing melting glaciers, rising sea levels and devastating storms have been calling on us in the United States to urge our government to take strong measures to address climate change,” said Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. “This order ignores the cry of the Earth, our common home, and the cry of the most impacted peoples, including here in the United States, where low-income communities of color are disproportionately located near polluting industries that contribute to climate change.”
Trump Executive Order on Climate Rollbacks Threatens God’s Creation and the Most Vulnerable Among Us
On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and possibly repeal the Clean Power Plan and carbon pollution standards for new power plants. The executive order sets in motion the dismantling of several important climate change protections intended to safeguard our environment and public health. The executive order fails to offer an alternative plan to safeguard our air quality and the stability of the climate.
Carbon dioxide emissions from power plants account for 40% of the carbon pollution in the United States. Creation Justice Ministries serves communities burdened by these power plants’ air pollution. We are responsible to the children, older adults, people with respiratory diseases, and communities of color who bear a disproportionate burden when we fail to protect our air.
As Christians, we are first responders to climate damage. Disaster relief ministries struggle to meet challenges of rising floodwaters, merciless wildfires, and harsher storms. Hunger relief ministries seek to respond to severe droughts and disrupted access to food. Health ministries are dealing with higher rates of asthma and increased vector-borne diseases. Short-sightedness, greed, and apathy have burdened God's creation with irreversible damage. We have an urgent moral duty to prevent more harm.
As caretakers of God’s creation, we are accountable to our Maker for sustaining the needs of current and future generations. As such, we call upon the Administration to re-examine its actions under this executive order and to remain true to its stated commitment to protect clean air.
At this juncture, we believe another path forward is necessary and possible. Ecological and economic well-being should go hand-in-hand, and every day local communities are innovating creative climate solutions that also foster job opportunities. The love we have for our neighbors, for children, and for God’s good creation will strengthen our communities to prevail.
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at www.creationjustice.org
Contact: Shantha Ready Alonso, 202-618-2501 (mobile) firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, the State Department announced the second U.S. contribution of $500 million to the Green Climate Fund, an international multilateral fund that supports low-emission and resilient development in countries that are the most vulnerable to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. The Green Climate Fund was established to help countries that are least responsible for causing climate change, and least economically able to cope with it. The Green Climate Fund is accountable to a board with representatives from the U.S. government, and other donor and recipient governments. It includes high levels of transparency and accountability in its structure and governing principles to prevent corruption.
Religious communities, which are heavily involved in relief and development ministries, have a strong interest in seeing the Green Climate Fund succeed. Religious relief and development ministries are struggling to respond to climate impacts, and the Green Climate Fund provides welcome international organization of funds for the cause. In 2016, 121 religious organizations requested a $750 million investment in the Green Climate Fund for Fiscal Year 2017.
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at www.creationjustice.org
Religious Leaders Affirm Investment In the Green Climate Fund
“The Green Climate Fund is an investment in the well-being of our collective future, especially the poor and vulnerable peoples around the world, whose livelihoods are directly harmed and threatened right now by climate disruption. As such, the Friends Committee on National Legislation is deeply grateful to the Obama Administration for its $750 million commitment to the fund for Fiscal Year 2017. It is a commitment to compassion in action. As we come upon our nation’s annual celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King, this commitment resonates in his words: “Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”
Legislative Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
“As Christians, we celebrate the release of funds to the Green Climate Fund because are called to rectify injustice. When the most vulnerable people in the world who have emitted the fewest greenhouse gas emissions get harmed first and worst by our damaged climate, countries like the United States must take responsibility. We see the Green Climate Fund as a strategic investment to organize and strengthen efforts for climate adaptation and resilience. We remain committed to calling for the United States to meet its full pledge of $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund by 2020.”
Shantha Ready Alonso
Executive Director, Creation Justice Ministries
“We are pleased that the Obama administration was able to continue the United States’ bipartisan tradition of support for climate resilience and renewable energy technologies in developing nations. This is an important installment toward our $3 billion pledge and shows the rest of the world that the U.S. is keeping our word and doing our part. As people of faith, we have a responsibility to consider the needs of others and answer God’s call to care for the least among us. That is what this fund is all about.”
The Rev. Cn. Sally Bingham
President, Interfaith Power & Light
“As Christians in the United States who care about vulnerable persons from all backgrounds, we know ensuring that our country does its part for the Green Climate Fund is not only a matter of environmental concern, but also one of basic justice and compassion. With the resources to prepare for extreme weather, rising sea levels, drought, and other climate disruption, fewer people will find themselves in desperate situations.”
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Director, Disciples Center for Public Witness
“The Franciscan Action Network applauds the Obama administration’s continued commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement by pledging additional funding to the Green Climate Fund. As Pope Francis reminded us in his encyclical Laudato Si, it is going to take the full dedication of each of the world’s major polluters to ensure that we stop the debilitating effects of climate change that are currently affecting our brothers and sisters in the third world. It is our hope that this commitment continues with the incoming President-Elect.”
Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
For such a time as this we are called to responsibly steward the gifts of creation and to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable, affirming all creation’s right to flourish. Through the health of our climate, all the world’s concerns are intertwined. We – the Alliance of Baptists – therefore urge President Obama to fulfill our country’s commitment to the Green Climate Fund as a part of the historic Paris agreement so that we might join with other countries in caring for the earth as our common home.”
Rev. Paula Dempsey
Director of Partner Relations, Alliance of Baptists
"Church World Service(CWS) warmly welcomes President Obama’s move to shore up US contributions for the Green Climate Fund before his Administration departs office. These are critical investments for the future. CWS can already attest to the damage caused by increasing drought, catastrophic weather events and failing crops caused by changes to climactic patterns. Our faith tradition compels us to help the vulnerable and to build communities through acts of compassion, solidarity and active giving. This US contribution to the Green Climate Fund is in keeping with finest traditions of US global leadership which CWS hopes will continue long into the future."
Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer, Church World Service
"It is simply a fact that those hit hardest by the impacts of climate change are those that have contributed the least to the problem. Given the disproportionate burden that our changing climate is placing on the poor and the marginalized around the world, it is a moral imperative that the U.S. do everything possible to ensure that climate mitigation and adaptation is as just and equitable as possible. This means allocating robust funding to mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund so that less developed countries have the resources they need to adapt to a rapidly changing world. If the United States wants to continue its tradition of moral leadership on the international stage, it must make good on its commitment to fund the Green Climate Fund."
National Organizer and Spokesperson, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action
“This transfer of $500 million to the fund demonstrates our country’s ongoing compassion and commitment to the poor around the world. The Green Climate Fund is an important resource that helps communities in developing countries prepare for the ill effects of climate change, like increasing droughts that undermine the livelihoods of small farmers.” (Link to full statement)
Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy, Catholic Relief Services
“We express our gratitude to President Obama for honoring his commitment to the Green Climate Fund up to the end of his term. From super typhoons to severe drought conditions, our missioners and the vulnerable communities we serve in Asia, Africa, and Latin America experience deeply and directly the weather events linked to climate change. These events will only become more frequent and severe if we fail to act to protect our common home.”
Faith Economy Ecology Program Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns