Religions are all about belief systems. For the Catholic Church, the largest religious denomination in America, those beliefs extend to believing that climate change is real – and that humanity has a responsibility to stop it. The Catholic Climate Covenant is doing its part by encouraging Catholic archdioceses, parishes and Catholic families to support the Paris climate accord, sign the Catholic Climate Declaration, and even put solar collectors on church roofs.
The Covenant, formed in 2006 with help from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sprang into action in 2017 when President Trump, bowing to the coal and oil industries, withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.
Declaring “Catholics Are Still In,” the Covenant affirmed the commitment of U.S. Catholic institutions to stand by the Paris Agreement regardless of Trump’s actions.
Their declaration unequivocally acknowledged that “Climate change is an urgent moral issue because it compromises the future of our common home, threatens human life and human dignity, and adds to the hardships already experienced by the poorest and most vulnerable people both at home and abroad.”
The Declaration reiterated support for the framework established by the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions to limit global temperature rises related to climate emissions in order to avoid “the most dangerous effects of climate change.”
The Covenant’s leaders continue to challenge both the President’s and EPA’s efforts to undermine if not eliminate policies that would reduce carbon pollution. “The Administration is doing long-term damage” to the programs that limit burning fossil fuels, said Dan Misleh, the founding executive director of the Covenant, on a recent webinar. Meanwhile, “EPA seems to have forgotten its core mission to protect human health and the environment.”
The Catholic Climate Covenant originally secured support for the Climate Declaration from institutional partners, including dioceses and archdioceses, schools, parishes, and hospitals. It has been joined by 17 national partners and more than 600 religious communities. “The declaration helps Catholics by reminding them that the teaching on care for creation is long; demands work for the common good; and that government has a role to play in addressing the issues that threaten the common good,” said Misleh.
It was almost pre-ordained that the Covenant would jump into the fray once Trump threw down the gauntlet. In 1990, Saint John Paul II warned that the greenhouse effect had reached crisis proportions. Pope Benedict VI joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, communities of women and men religious, and theologians around the world in affirming human-forced climate change as a moral issue. Pope Francis made it clear to the world that he believes climate change poses an existential threat to creation on May 24, 2015 when he issued his encyclical, considered to be one of the church’s most authoritative teaching documents, titled, “Laudato Si, or Praised Be: On Care for Our Common Home.” “We need one another…we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and…being good and decent are worth it,” he wrote.
In addition to taking public policy positions, the Catholic Climate Covenant has established Catholic Energies to help Catholic institutions save energy and adopt solar. Catholic Energies makes it possible for buildings to install LED lighting, HVAC upgrades and solar panels at no upfront cost and without the need to raise and spend capital.
We applaud the efforts of the Catholic Church to join with communities, organizations, state, tribal, and local governments, as well as businesses, financial institutions, and other faith organizations against climate change. Declaring that Catholics are still in on actions that meet the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, they are helping to protect American families our the future.