The Clean Power Plan is a Moral Action Plan

BY ON April 7, 2016

Hands releasing birds into the sky

This was written by The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, President of Interfaith Power and Light Campaign

There has been extensive discussion about the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants, the single largest source of climate-destabilizing emissions in our nation. We have debated its design, the scope and pace of the emissions reductions, and the economic implications.

But I have not heard anyone address the moral implications – the moral imperative for finally establishing a limit on the carbon pollution from power plants.

A final decision as to its legal merits is expected later this year, after the D.C. Circuit completes a thorough review. A diverse group of 41 faith leaders from across our nation just filed a “friend of the court” brief to defend these safeguards against the hyperbolic legal attacks by the coal industry and its allies. From the National Baptist Convention of America and Catholic Committee of Appalachia to the Union of Reform Judaism, these groups joined together to underscore that “we face a moral imperative to protect the Earth and all its inhabitants from a climate crisis of our own making.”

So perhaps now it is time to point out that it isn’t just the Clean Power Plan that is under attack. The ethical and moral values of this country are under attack as well.

America is a very religious country – only about 13% claim no religion according to the latest ABC poll. While a majority are Christian, we also have Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other religions represented: all of which are in agreement that caring for Creation and our fellow humans, particularly the poor among us, is a responsibility of people of faith.

Climate change puts both at risk. It places in harm’s way all our natural ecosystems and the human community they support. Moreover, climate change disproportionately harms those least able to bear the burden.

The faith brief highlights the depth of concern across faiths regarding these impacts, citing and quoting statements by Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Christian faiths.

“See to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.” Kohelet Rabbah 7:13.

“God’s exhortation to us to till and keep the earth (Genesis 2:15) urges us to action in the face of a growing body of evidence from scientists around the world that global warming is threatening the future of creation, and the health and well-being of our children and all living things.” Statement of the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (June 2007)

“[T]he deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: Both every day experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.” Pope Francis, “On Care for Our Common Home,” Laudato Si ¶ 48 (May 24, 2015)

These comments were underscored by other recent filings — in particular, one from a coalition of America’s leading health associations, including the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, which underscored the grim health impacts of failing to act on climate: heat-related illness; vector-borne disease; and increased soot and smog pollution.

Yet, it seems that many politicians, the fossil fuel industry and some utilities are not concerned about the impacts from continued use of coal and oil on air pollution and climate change. We are a nation that professes to care about the health and well-being of its people. So how can there be resistance to a plan to upgrade our power plants, clean our air, create jobs and provide economic opportunities for low income communities?

In the United States we often hear politicians express their pride in American exceptionalism, meaning we have a uniquely free and exemplary nation based on our democratic ideals. But we cannot be that ideal nation unless we look after all our citizens –particularly the ones whose voices are not often heard. How free are people who are dying from air pollution in their communities?

We have a moral obligation to be good stewards, not only of our land, water, and air, but also of our people’s health. The Clean Power Plan is the right and moral way forward to keep our country healthy by cleaning our air and safeguarding our climate. Once the plan is fully implemented, EPA estimates that it will avoid 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks every year. Who doesn’t want clean air for our children to breathe? (Tweet this) Don’t we want to play outdoors, run and walk without fear of “bad air days”?

We know that coal is dirty and continuing to burn it for fuel when we have other choices is ethically wrong. It has had its “day in the sun” and now is time to use the sun to heat and cool our homes and to leave the coal in the ground.

When we know something is wrong and harmful but we continue business as usual, don’t we have to question our moral and ethical values? What kind of people continue to harm others knowingly? The Clean Power Plan will move our country in the right direction – toward a clean energy future. It is morally wrong to deny improvements to our nation’s fleet of power plants that will save Americans’ lives and give hope to our children’s future.

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TOPICS: Clean Air Rules and Regulations, Religion