Last weekend, while the world's attention was focused on tense talks between developed and developing nations in Copenhagen, and church bells rang out the necessity of binding climate change agreements, Interfaith Power and Light announced an opportunity for religious congregations in the United States to support faith-based solutions in the Global South.
The new Carbon Covenant program highlights four projects addressing deforestation. Located in Cameroon, Cambodia, Tanzania and Ghana, all are led by local people of faith on the front lines of climate change concerns.
"We're not waiting for a treaty. The climate can't wait, and creation can't wait. Right now all over the developing world people's lives, homes, and livelihoods are being threatened," said the Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, president and founder of Interfaith Power and Light. "And it's often people living subsistence lifestyles -- those who have contributed the least to global warming -- who are suffering the most."
The Carbon Covenant offers a way for people in the United States to offset carbon emissions by supporting reforestation projects.
In Cambodia, Buddhist Monks aim to protect a remote community forest from illegal logging by ordaining trees and patrolling the area.
In Ghana, the Presbyterian Church is teaching alternative, sustainable livelihoods, from snail farming to bee keeping, as well as restoring forests.
In Cameroon, an interfaith project is fighting desertification through tree planting.
And on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, a Lutheran bishop is making tree planting a condition of confirmation in the church.
In 2004, the World Bank estimated that deforestation contributes up to 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The greatest losses occur in tropical countries. It is also in the tropics where vegetation grows rapidly that replanting can make the most difference, removing large quantities of carbon dioxide from the air quickly.
Bingham sums up the project, "Instead of a treaty, we have a covenant, and it's off to a great start."
Interfaith Power and Light is a national campaign with more than 10,000 U.S. congregations and 30 state affiliates working to mobilize a religious response to global warming.