On September 25, Pope Francis will speak to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City as the members determine the new Sustainable Development Goals. These goals will guide global leaders in finding a way forward for international development. The Sustainable Development Goals are being finalized this September ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change happening in Paris this December. Both UN gatherings are happening in the wake of global temperature rise, sea level rise, increased droughts and flooding, all due to climate change.
Part of our job as legislative assistants, in addition to staying on top of policy and doing direct lobby visits, is to help Reform Jews – from high school students with us for the L’Taken Social Justice Seminars to rabbis and congregational lay leaders attending Consultation on Conscience – speak to the offices of their elected officials.
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final rule for the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to significantly reduce carbon emissions through regulating coal power plants along with other mitigation strategies. The plan is expected to cut carbon emissions in the United States by up to 30%, making it a significant move to mitigate climate change in parallel with other greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies like regulating heavy duty vehicles and limiting methane. The rule is likely to shift conversations in some states from coal and other non-renewable fossil fuel resources to clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power. In announcing this historic rule, President Obama said: “Climate change is no longer just about the future that we’re predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it’s about the reality that we’re living with every day, right now.”
This past weekend, I attended the Religions for Peace USA Earth-Faith-Peace Teach In with a group of my fellow young faith leaders engaged in climate justice work. The group included participants from a wide array of religious traditions, from Franciscans to Zoroastrians, who flew in to the Teach-In from as far as Bombay and Brazil, as nearby as Boston and Washington, D.C. Together, our group explored sites of environmental degradation and pollution, learned about cap and trade and carbon tax models for mitigating climate change and shared environmental education and advocacy best practices from our communities.
In California, residents are feeling the intensity of their continued drought and subsequent state-sanctioned fines for over-using water. One of the avenues Californians are using to enforce strict water use rules is “drought shaming.” Drought shaming is the practice of publicly tweeting, blogging and sharing images of neighbors and friends “carelessly” using water.
This week, the Supreme Court issued a decision in that obstructs further implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard rule. The regulation, put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 and authorized by the Clean Air Act, required electric and energy industries to reduce mercury pollution. The decision in the case Michigan et al v. Environmental Protection Agency centered on the question of whether the EPA unreasonably disregarded the costs to industry of regulating hazardous pollutants. The Court ruled 5-4 that the industry did not have to follow the rule.
Today, the Vatican released Pope Francis’s encyclical titled Laudato Si, which roughly translates to Praised Be. The encyclical details a theology of “integrated ecology” – connecting care for the poor with environmental stewardship – leading many to call this an eco-encyclical, and Pope Francis the Green Pope. The document details specifically the human causes of climate change and our sacred obligation to care for our earth and combat climate disruption.