Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Balancing Abundance and Need
distributed 11/6/15 - ©2015

We celebrate today a significant and hard-won victory, with President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL permit.

This morning's announcement proves the power of committed, persistent and vocal activists. Our years of letter-writing, rallies and -- for some -- civil disobedience transformed an obscure corporate application into an international symbol of climate justice. I find hope and joy in this news, and I pray that we will all be strengthened for the continued work of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and demanding climate justice.

The Paris Climate Talks ("COP21") begin in 24 days. This winter, in Paris -- as at all of the other negotiating sessions held through the last two decades -- there will be conflict between the "developed" and "developing" countries over strategies to deal fairly with the enormous costs of dealing with climate change.

Last June, Pope Francis pointed toward that unresolved tension in his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si':

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels -- especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas -- needs to be progressively replaced without delay. ... But the international community has still not reached adequate agreements about the responsibility for paying the costs of this energy transition. ... Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world. (paragraph 165)

One of those points of conflict at December's meeting will be the woefully under-funded Green Climate Fund. How the US Congress deals with contributions to that fund in their work on the 2016 budget will give an important signal to COP21about this nation's willingness to accept our global responsibility.

Without stretching too far in my exegesis, I find that long-ago words of Paul to the church in Corinth help us understand support for the Green Climate Fund in the context of faithful stewardship.

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Richard Matthews -- who blogs about sustainable capitalism -- provides a concise explanation about the Green Climate Fund (GCF):

The GCF is a UNFCCC [U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change] founded mechanism to transfer money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

The logic behind the GFC is simple, if we are to ask less developed nations to contribute to climate solutions that they did not create, those nations that are responsible for anthropogenic warming must assume some of the cost.

Grants from the fund will be allocated to poor countries, with 50 percent to be used for adapting and building resilience in the most vulnerable countries, and 50 percent for mitigating the effects of climate change. Both approaches are needed to help the developing nations deal with the accelerating climate crisis. (The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has a good 2-page fact sheet on the GCF.)

The internationally agreed-upon goal for the GCF is $100 billion in contributions from the developed nations and the private sector by 2020. President Obama has pledged $3 billion from the United States toward that goal, but Congress has not yet allocated any funds. The administration's budget request for 2016 is $500 million.

To put $500 million into perspective, that's how much the Pentagon spent to train just five fighters to combat ISIS in the Middle East (which even by Pentagon standards was a scandal). It is a little bit less than Planned Parenthood received in 2014. The US Department of Transportation awarded that much in 39 grants for "Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery" in 2015.

In the scale of the US budget, $500 million isn't all that much. It seems to me to be a fairly trivial allocation in relation to our nation's climate impacts, but -- as Susan Stephenson of Interfaith Power & Light wrote -- "those in Congress who want to see the Paris climate summit fail are threatening to block the U.S. commitment to the Green Climate Fund."

The money from the US and other rich nations is desperately needed. The home page of the Green Climate Fund says, "Although governments have pledged to mobilize significantly more funding to reach the agreed USD 100 billion in new resources per year by 2020, the current level of USD 1.5 billion per year of commitment capacity of GCF is far from the levels required to deliver on its mandate to support low-emission and climate-resilient development in developing countries and to contribute to climate action."

The less-developed nations have every reason to doubt the sincerity and commitment of the highly developed countries when so little has been pledged, and even less cash has been made available to the Green Climate Fund.

I join with a number of our faith-based colleagues in asking you to contact your US Senators and Representative. Urge them to support the Green Climate Fund in the 2016 budget. A phone call to their offices is the most powerful way to communicate. (Get those phone numbers at the websites for the Senate and House.) If you'd rather email, there are editable messages on the issue that can be sent to your representatives provided by Creation Justice Ministries and Interfaith Power & Light. Call and/or email today.

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The apostle Paul didn't have anything to say about billion dollar contributions to multi-national relief funds. But he did have a lot to say about responsible and generous contributions to other relief efforts.

In chapters 8 and 9 of Second Corinthians, Paul makes the case for the folk in Corinth to make substantial donations in support of the church in Jerusalem. That's the section where we get the line about "God loves a cheerful giver." But Paul leans pretty hard on the prospective donors. Hear some of his words in the context of your nation's potential funding of the Green Climate Fund, and of your own recognition of the need for this funding.

  • "I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the eagerness of others." (8:8)

  • "And in this matter I am giving you my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something -- now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means." (8:10-11)

  • "I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need" (8:13-14).

Paul was calling on the Corinthians for a much larger scale contribution than the $500 million per year from the wealthy United States. But his words are still a challenge to us in the affluent nations. How genuine is our love, and our commitment to justice, if we do not provide a significant amount of our money to those who are deeply in need -- especially when their need is directly tied to our own pollution?

The Green Climate Fund is one of the ways that the international community is seeking to take responsible and effective action on the climate crisis. Demonstrate your support for the GCF by contacting your legislators today.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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