News

Interfaith Leaders Back Climate Bill

October 8, 2009
Zach Rosenberg
Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON - An interfaith group of religious leaders Thursday announced the launch of DaySix.org, an initiative aimed at influencing the passage of Senate legislation on climate change.

The group hopes to motivate grassroots support among religious members of the U.S. public.

"DaySix is really focused on education, motivation, inspiration," said Katie Paris, programme director of Faith in Public Life, the founding organisation of DaySix.org, in a conference call announcing the launch.

The website for the campaign is designed to persuade young religious people to support climate change legislation, in particular calling for increased funding in the proposed Kerry-Boxer bill for assisting developing nations in adapting to the consequences of climate change.

"Adaptation is truly focused on those that are being hit first and worst, the poorest of the poor, those that have contributed least to this problem," said Paris.

The campaign cited a recent World Bank study which calculated that between 70 and 80 percent of the financial costs of climate change would be borne by developing nations. Developing nations are responsible for an estimated 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

"We already see how climate change is affecting the lives of those we serve," said Bill O'Keefe, director of policy and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services. "We reviewed our entire project portfolio about a year ago and discovered we were already doing 60 million dollars a year of disaster relief related to climate change."

"The good news," O'Keefe added, "if there is any good news, is that we already know how to address the situation, but it requires resources at the scale that only governments can provide."

Representatives of DaySix.org met with Sen. John Kerry in September to discuss their concerns.

''DaySix" is a reference to the Bible's Genesis chapter, which says God made human beings "stewards of creation".

"On the sixth day, we were made in God's image and given responsibility to care for the earth and each other. Today, we must fulfill that charge,'' read the campaign's website.

Halting climate change has in recent years become a major focus of religious lobby groups in Washington.

The website's launch is the latest in a flurry of efforts to influence Washington policymakers before a major international summit on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark this December.

Momentum is building in Washington for an overhaul of climate policy, with President Barack Obama signing an executive order Monday directing federal agencies to monitor their greenhouse gas emissions and set targets to reduce their emissions by 2020.

The Kerry-Boxer bill marks a potential milestone in U.S. environmental policy. If passed, the bill would mandate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to 20 percent less than 2005 levels.

Adaptation initiatives receive little attention, often ignored in favour of large-scale, high-profile issues like technology innovation and job creation programmes.

"The game is being played, and we have to be in it, and no one is going to speak up for adaptation if we don't," said Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life.

"I am here today to ask in God's name," he added, "that those leaders who shape climate change legislation include robust funding for adaptation programmes that enable the poor to make livelihood-saving and life-saving innovations and changes to their communities."

"In the debate so far, there has been more attention to polar bears than people," said O'Keefe. "The U.S. doesn't demonstrate enough effort to help the poorest people in the poorest countries, and those countries are not going to want to help us [at the Copenhagen summit]."

Domestic commitments are seen as crucial steps in building support for a global framework on climate change.

The proposed Kerry-Boxer bill has been referred to committee. Supporters of the bill are unsure of a Senate vote before the end of the year.

Concerted resistance efforts by industry lobby groups often make supporting climate change legislation an expensive proposition for policymakers.

Many influential religious leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, have expressed support for efforts at halting climate change. Religious groups have become a staple of debates over environmental legislation in the United States.

Representatives from: Evangelical Environmental Network, Catholic Relief Services, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Interfaith Power and Light, and Faith in Public Life participated in the launch of the campaign.

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