As people of faith around the world look to the international climate change negotiations underway in Madrid, Spain, with hope and anticipation, those of us in the United States continue to wonder about America’s inexplicable withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. While the U.S. withdrawal is a hard pill to swallow, action in Congress on a massive package of clean energy incentives may offer a reason to look forward to 2020 with renewed hope.
What if we ended 2019 taking consequential action on climate together as a country?
As a Californian concerned about wildfires, droughts and floods, and as a leader in climate change action within the Anglican Communion, a global body of some 87 million people, I’m eager to support what’s shaping up to be a hopeful climate development.
Over the course of this fall, bipartisan support has steadily built in Congress for a suite of clean energy measures that could make a difference in aligning us more closely with the goals of the Paris Agreement, even as President Trump moves on with his ill-advised withdrawal plans.
Called the GREEN Act (Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now), the draft legislation will, as the Union of Concerned Scientists has written, “… continue our clean energy momentum, create jobs, and grow local economies while leading to tangible reductions in global warming emissions.”
What are the elements of the GREEN Act?
Among other things, the GREEN Act would extend tax credits for wind and solar power and electric vehicles, and expand a variety of incentives for energy efficiency investments and energy storage. Many of these incentives can help my home of Northern California respond to the massive impacts it is experiencing to its electric grid because of the wildfires.
What is the role for people of faith in passing this consequential legislation? Advocacy.
It’s now up to our leaders in Washington, including my Congresswoman, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, to prioritize the passage of these critical clean energy incentives before the year is out. And it’s up to us to encourage those leaders to act to protect God’s creation.
I am writing as an ordained person in the Christian faith, where I regularly hear phrases like, “You’ve gone from preaching to meddling.” While I strongly support our country’s historic commitment to the separation of state and religion, it is true that we all exist in our social, political context. Now more than at any time, it is necessary for every sector — business, government, education, tribal groups, health-care systems, cultural institutions, and yes, faith bodies – to take action for the sake of life on the planet.
I have in mind an important anniversary in the climate and environmental movement that rolled around in 2012 — the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in 1962. During the anniversary year, I re-read this powerful, lyrical call to action on environmental degradation, and in the course of that reading learned something I didn’t know: Carson pushed herself to finish writing Silent Spring while her body was losing its battle with what had begun as breast cancer — she died six months after completing a book that helped bring about the environmental and climate movements. Every time I recall Carson’s courage and resolve, it helps me reset my own commitment. We must all work together to reduce pollution, transition our nation to clean energy, and help heal the planet now. I urge my fellow citizens and Congressional representatives to ensure that the year ends with the passage of bold new clean energy policies.
The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, which is comprised of 24,000 communicants in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties, and the cities of Los Altos and part of Palo Alto.