Coalition Letter: Climate Change and Consumer Assistance

May 13, 2009

Dear Member of Congress,

The faith community takes seriously our call to be faithful stewards of God’s earth and believes global climate change is a real and growing threat to Creation with profound and potentially devastating environmental, economic and social consequences. We are guided by the principles of justice, stewardship, sustainability and sufficiency that represent key tenets of our faith traditions and provide the lens through which we consider potential policy solutions. In particular, climate legislation must protect those living in poverty and hold them harmless to rising energy related costs.

God calls us to serve those living on the margins of society and to protect those individuals and communities living in poverty in the United States and around the world. Quite frankly, for too long climate change advocates have minimized the potential impact of climate legislation on the poor and opponents have used such impacts as a justification for inaction. Neither course brings us closer to a just climate policy and neither serves the interests of those we are called to be in ministry with.

We believe a just climate policy must first and foremost contain effective and mandatory emissions reduction targets in order to prevent catastrophic impacts for the people and planet we are called to serve. But likewise, action must be centered on a vision of justice for all God’s people. In developing policies we must ensure that the solutions protect the needs of those already living in poverty and don’t push families deeper into poverty due to higher energy-related costs. For example, the proposal from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers a solution for those in the bottom quintile through systems that would efficiently, effectively and justly provide benefits to offset these cost increases for low-income individuals and families.

In developing a system that addresses climate change while providing financial assistance to those living in poverty, we support utilizing established and proven methods to deliver benefits for low-income consumers that provide funds sufficient to offset all energy-related price increases. Mechanisms such as an electronic benefits transfer card and an expanded earned income tax credit would allow individuals and families flexibility in adapting to increased prices for a variety of goods and services. In contrast, proposals that would use local distribution companies or other utilities to deliver a consumer rebate would ignore over one-half of the estimated costs to low-income families and require the establishment of new delivery systems and outreach programs to encourage participation. Established methods offer a more effective and efficient approach to reach the greatest percentage of low-income consumers.

Finally, in addition to direct climate rebates, efficiency measures aimed at low-income households should be included in any climate legislation. Weatherizing homes and encouraging replacement of older appliances with more energy efficient alternatives will reduce emissions and lower costs for consumers.

The faith community supports strong and quick action to address the dangers of climate change while ensuring that solutions mitigate rather than compound economic injustices. Those least responsible for creating this problem are most vulnerable to its effects. Let us not perpetuate further this injustice by forcing those same individuals to shoulder additional and disproportionate costs of proposed solutions. Climate policy should provide assistance through efficient and just systems that would provide sufficient benefits to offset any energy related cost increases for low income consumers. We believe financial assistance for those living in poverty in the United States and international adaptation assistance for vulnerable communities abroad must be a part of any climate policy in order to protect God’s good creation and all of God’s children.

Sincerely,

The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office
The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
The United Church of Christ – Washington Office