[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Advocating for a fair and ambitious climate agreement, a carbon fee and planting trees in commemoration of the Paris Agreement topped the agenda July 4 during the Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation Committee’s first open hearing at the JW Marriott.
The 79th General Convention officially gets underway with legislative sessions July 5 at the Austin Convention Center and runs through July 13.
The Rev. Leon Sampson, a deacon and deputy from the Episcopal Church of Navajoland, spoke to the importance of Resolution C008, which calls for the further advancement of the House of Bishops’ 2011 commitment “ ‘to advocate for a fair, ambitious, and binding climate treaty’ by making every effort to fully and completely participate in future meetings of the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change as an active, faithful and engaged voice for all of God’s good earth.”
Bishops addressed the earth’s unfolding environmental crisis during a meeting in Quito, Ecuador, in a pastoral teaching to the church in which they said:
“The mounting urgency of our environmental crisis challenges us at this time to confess ‘our self-indulgent appetites and ways,’ ‘our waste and pollution of God’s creation,” and “our lack of concern for those who come after us’ (Ash Wednesday Liturgy, Book of Common Prayer, p. 268). It also challenges us to amend our lives and to work for environmental justice and for more environmentally sustainable practices.
“Christians cannot be indifferent to global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction, all of which threaten life on our planet. Because so many of these threats are driven by greed, we must also actively seek to create more compassionate and sustainable economies that support the well-being of all God’s creation.”
Further extraction of natural resources in Bears Ears – which extends into Navajoland – and other proposed oil, gas and mining projects in Navajoland provide much-needed jobs, but also threaten people’s health and the environment, said Sampson.
In December 2017, the Trump administration announced it would reduce by 2 million acres two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. The shrinking of the two monuments in Utah opens up the possibility of oil, gas and other natural resource development and represents the largest reduction of federal land protection in U.S. history.
In April, a Native American advocacy group appealed the Trump administration’s decision to the United Nations, claiming desecration of a sacred site is a human rights violation.
Most of the environmental stewardship and care of creation resolutions are listed here. In September 2016, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry identified care for creation as one of the three pillars, along with reconciliation and evangelism, of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.
The committee called on the Rev. Melanie Mullen, the church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, to testify to Resolution A013 as to the need of an officer to oversee the stewardship of creation. The officer would oversee the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation’s grant program.
The 78th General Convention created an Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation during its meeting in Salt Lake City in 2015. It took some months for the advisory council to convene, but once it did it quickly began a small grant program, awarding 40 grants to projects throughout the Episcopal Church and it oversees three environmental justice sites.
Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers Director Bill Slocumb spoke in favor of Resolution A010, which calls for planting “Paris Groves” at each of the church’s 85 camps and conference centers. The groves – planted with native tree species – would “serve as a visible witness to the significance of the Paris Accord and do the practical work of sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere.” The resolution also calls on General Convention to commend all Episcopal Schools, Camps and Conference Centers in making environmental stewardship and care of creation key components of formation in the 2019-2021 triennium. It also asks for Episcopalians’ support and that each person reaffirm their baptismal vows and plant a tree in one of the groves.
Emily Hopkins of the Diocese of California testified to Resolution C020, which calls for the Church to “support a national tax on carbon-based fossil fuels based on the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which would impose a carbon fee on all fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases at the point where they first enter the economy; align U.S. emissions with the physical constraints identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to avoid irreversible climate change; and use this carbon fee through a trust fund to make equal monthly per-person dividend payments to all American households.”
The committee suggested modifying the resolution’s title, making it clear that it is a “fee” not a “tax.”
Hopkins acknowledged that the Province IX dioceses located in the Caribbean and South America would not benefit from a carbon fee and dividend; she acknowledged the contribution of resource-rich states to the building of the United States and the need for extractive dependent states to be assisted in their transition to clean energy.
Over the years, General Convention has passed more than 50 resolutions addressing environmental stewardship and creation care. This year, the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation submitted 14 resolutions (read its Blue Book report here), many strengthening previous resolutions, some addressing more contemporary concerns.
– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.