Representative Deborah Ross, D-North Carolina, speaks during a climate action dialogue with religious leaders in North Carolina on September 27. (EarthBeat screenshot)
As Congress faces a critical week, with the nation’s biggest federal climate initiatives at stake in two multibillion-dollar legislative packages, a representative from North Carolina said religious communities could play a role. key role in pushing both Bills to cross the finish line.
During a climate action dialogue with religious leaders in North Carolina on September 27, U.S. Representative Deborah Ross said that over the course of a decade in the state legislature, she “has personally witnessed the strength of the religious community “and its” power to persuade and cross party lines “on civil rights and criminal justice issues. She also highlighted the efforts of religious groups, including the Catholic Health Association and many women’s religious congregations, to obtain the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Now the Democratic MP is urging faith groups to do the same on the climate and environmental policies included in the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. federal government, which could be voted on this week.
“It is time for the religious community to use its powerful and humble influence in this political sphere and touch the lives of people like me who serve, because we all want to feel like we are doing what is right for people, doing which is good for the future, and respecting and serving our faith as we serve, ”she said.
Both bills include hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in environmental, energy and climate initiatives over the next decade. They form the backbone of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda and the new US commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels of by 2030.
Among the programs are:
- Transition measures of the national network and public transport towards clean energy;
- Create incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations;
- Tax methane emissions;
- Replace lead pipes, plug orphan gas wells and reduce pollution;
- Establish a civilian body for the climate;
- Improve the nation’s climate resilience, especially for tribal and coastal communities.
Environmental activists, including many faith groups, have called the legislation a unique opportunity to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the United States, historically the world’s leading source. Scientists say significant reductions are needed to keep the global average temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Fr. Franciscan. Jacek Orzechowski, Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, North Carolina (EarthBeat screenshot)
“The urgency of climate change is deeply a religious, spiritual and moral issue,” said Franciscan Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Durham, North Carolina, said. He added that the urgency was underscored by a recent report by the scientific working group of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi targeted the vote on the infrastructure package on Thursday, September 30, but did not set a date for the larger $ 3.5 trillion bill. dollars on “human infrastructure” that goes through a process of budget reconciliation – an attempt by the Senate Democrats to pass it by a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to bypass the filibuster.
Although 19 Senate Republicans voted for the infrastructure bill in August, none are expected to support the reconciliation plan.
Ross, a member of the House committee on science, space and technology and its energy subcommittee, said she was confident the House would pass both laws. She said investing in clean energy and scaling up offshore wind power, in particular, was “a huge personal priority.”
“It’s an investment not only in our current climate, which we know experiences extreme and extreme fluctuations, and we suffer with weather emergencies, fires and all kinds of droughts, but it’s an investment in our future is an investment in the next generation, ”said Ross.
The first-term MP said she had not heard of potential cuts to climate programs as Democrats continue to negotiate the reconciliation bill, with some party members uncomfortable with its current price $ 3.5 trillion. Reuters later reported that Democrats were considering limiting discounts on electric vehicles as a way to cut overall spending.
During the event, Charles Coble of Orange-Chatham Interfaith Care for Creation in North Carolina said group member congregations “are deeply involved in environmentally responsible practices” such as recycling, composting and the installation of solar panels.
Charles Coble of Orange-Chatham Interfaith Care for Creation in North Carolina (EarthBeat screenshot)
“However, we have no illusions that all of these efforts, and laudable as they are, can really make a significant enough difference in climate change, even if they are widely adopted,” Coble said.
“We need effective climate policies at local, state and national levels. We therefore believe that the voices of religious communities are essential for this to happen,” he added.
Echoing a major theme of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si ‘, on Taking care of our common home“, Orzechowski drew a link between the climate crisis and human migration, in particular recent scenes at the US border, where the treatment of Haitian migrants, some of whom fled the island after environmental disasters, drew strong criticism. from Catholics.
Any solution to either crisis must address both, said Orzechowski, who added that in his ministry at the border two years ago he heard Guatemalan immigrants describe how the drought has affected them. urged to leave their homes and head north.
“If we stay on the same path, without these drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we are looking at hundreds of millions of displaced people,” he said.
Ross, who explained how her Unitarian Universalist faith and her memory of the energy crisis of the 1970s influenced her work, said she hoped religious leaders would use their “power of moral persuasion, both over climate and ‘immigration, because they are closely linked “.
Asked by several attendees how believers can most effectively urge political and business leaders to take serious action on climate change, the congresswoman encouraged them to have one-on-one conversations and highlight the impact that climate decisions will have, not just for people. today but for future generations.
“The most powerful way, I believe, to persuade people is through love and compassion. And to tell them that by their actions they can leave a legacy greater than themselves,” said Ross. “These are the teachings of the scriptures, and when you approach people in this way, I find that they feel empowered then to maybe do something more daring than they did before.”
It is important that faith groups continue to speak out, she said, even if they are not heard the first time or do not see everything they have advocated included in a final legislative package.
But she added: “I hope we’re going to see some very, very positive changes this week.”
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