The June 9, 100 Leaders for 100% Clean Energy rally brought together leaders of various faiths to support the establishment of a national clean energy standard as part of President Joe Biden’s proposed $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan. (Courtesy Interfaith Power & Light)
Hundreds of faith leaders for 100% clean electricity.
That was the goal of the organizers of a June 9 rally in Washington, DC to gather 100 pastors, rabbis, and other religious leaders to express their support for President Joe Biden’s American job plan and his promise of a 100% clean by 2035 Establish and express energy standards.
But the organizers did not attract 100 faith leaders.
They drew 102.
“This is the moment for our nation and our common future. We can change our society and economy, ”said Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, founder and CEO of Dayenu, a Jewish climate protection group. “But to do this, our policymakers must have vision and courage to pass economic recovery and infrastructure laws to the extent that justice and science demand.”
“We can no longer afford to live by the status quo. We have to change systems. ‘
—The Rev. Michael Malcom
The Faith Event, held on the National Mall in the foreground of the U.S. Capitol, marked the start of an escalated push by environmental groups to urge Congressmen to support Biden’s ambitious infrastructure plan and clean electricity standard at a time they consider critical for the legislative future of both.
The American Jobs Plan is a cornerstone of the Biden government’s commitment to halve the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. The plan is to spend more than $ 2 trillion and create millions of jobs this decade to repair the country’s roads and bridges, convert homes and buildings to energy efficiency, and transform the country’s economy from fossil fuels to a clean energy future .
Rev. Susan Hendershot, president of Interfaith Power & Light, said her group’s support for the American Jobs Plan is about love for neighbor and the earth and justice for communities harmed by fossil fuel burning.
Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light, and Rev. Michael Malcom of Alabama Interfaith Power & Light speak during the “100 Leaders for 100% Clean Energy” rally on June 9th (courtesy of Interfaith Power & Light )
“Proverbs 29:18 says, ‘Without a vision people go about,'” she told EarthBeat in an email. “We call on the Biden government to set a courageous and just vision for the future. We know that people perish without a vision, and without action to bring that vision to life, everything we hold most precious and sacred will perish. “
Together with Interfaith Power & Light, the campaign entitled “100 Leaders for 100% Clean Energy” was organized by Dayenu, the Hip Hop Caucus and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund, which works to find solutions to the effects of global warming to that of the Chesapeake Bay region.
“The American Jobs Plan is a great policy. And in a time of rapid climate change, it’s a moral document, ”said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Sunday School teacher at his Presbyterian Church in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Rev. Michael Malcom, director of Alabama Interfaith Power & Light, told EarthBeat that it was important for religious leaders to support a clean energy standard that would decarbonise the country’s electrical grid. Such a move would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country with the highest historical emission rate, but also help cut energy bills for those who can least afford them, including renters, many of whom are black people.
“Our community pays $ 500 a month in utility benefits. It is our church that has to decide whether or not to get a decent meal or to pay the light bill, ”he said.
In addition to promoting key components of the American employment plan, Faith leaders also urged Biden to keep other key climate initiatives on track as he walks through Congress and continues to seek bipartisan support. These include: setting up a civilian climate corps, investing in weathering houses, creating jobs to restore abandoned mines and plugging oil and gas wells, and ensuring that 40% of spending and profits go to historically disadvantaged communities.
Resistance to bipartisan agreement
Republicans have so far opposed the president’s infrastructure draft, which goes beyond traditional projects, and his plan to pay for it by increasing corporate taxes. The Republican Senate’s last counterproposal offered $ 928 billion with roughly $ 330 billion in new spending and most of the cost paid by consumers through gasoline taxes and highway tolls.
The day before the Faith Event, Biden cut off talks with West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the senior Republican negotiator in the Senate. The president is expected to focus instead on a bipartisan group of moderate senators as Senate Democrats prepare for the possibility of passing laws through a budget reconciliation process that would require a simple majority instead of 60 votes.
But the pursuit of a bipartisan deal has made some progressive environmental groups fear that negotiations could end with climate regulations being scaled back or removed from legislation altogether. While negotiating with the Republicans, Biden proposed cutting spending by $ 1 trillion.
In early June, members of the youth-led Sunrise movement held their own demonstration outside the White House to demand that Biden not compromise on his infrastructure plan and bring the full plan through Congress, including funding a civilian climate corps. They also asked the president to meet with youth organizers. Sunrise is planning a major protest on June 28th.
“Biden will either adopt a historic climate-centered infrastructure package or he will have to look us in the eye and tell us why he hasn’t done everything he can to stop the climate crisis while he was in power.” Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise, said in a statement.
“This moment is a unique opportunity to invest in the future of clean energy while addressing the injustices of the past.”
—Letter from religious leaders
Along with the National Mall event, religious leaders delivered their messages in writing, including a comment in the Washington Post.
More than 3,000 religious leaders signed a letter organized by Interfaith Power & Light calling on Congress to support a clean energy standard, invest in American-made electric vehicles and charging stations, expand public transportation, and ensure access to clean water.
“As we move from COVID aid to economic recovery, this moment is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in the future of clean energy while addressing the injustices of the past,” the letter reads.
Another letter signed by more than 100 pastors, professors and other evangelical leaders also called for climate and environmental precautions to be secured in a final infrastructure package.
“Just as God can transform evil into good and bring beauty out of ashes, we have the unique opportunity to create a brighter, healthier and more just future from the ashes of the COVID-19 crisis. The decision to rebuild today will be the life of the shape future generations, “says the letter.
Rev. Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, vice president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, which organized the letter, said in a statement that there is a misunderstanding that evangelicals deny climate change and oppose environmental policies, “but that is just not true. “
“Like everyone else, the health of our children is important to us. We want them to have clean air to breathe and pure water to drink. Our neighbors need jobs that feed their families, ”he said. “Scripture also teaches us that we have a moral responsibility to care for God’s world and to defend the weak.”
Several religious leaders at the DC event arrived after spending several days in northern Minnesota, where hundreds of worshipers joined thousands of indigenous peoples and environmental activists in a series of prayer ceremonies and demonstrations against the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
The multi-day mobilization, known as the Treaty People Gathering, is the latest in a series of protests over the past few months in which several measures have been taken to shut down the construction of the pipeline, including road blockades and demonstrators chaining themselves to construction machinery . More than 200 people were arrested.
Many Line 3 opponents want Biden to cancel, as he did on his first day in office with the Keystone XL transnational pipeline. On June 9, TC Corporation, the Canadian company developing Keystone, announced that it was officially ending the long-controversial project.
Malcom, who attended both gatherings, told EarthBeat that the fight against Line 3 and for the American job plan are one and the same. In both settings he sees people who “stand up and say they have had enough”.
The minister said one of his main messages to the Biden government is that the country can no longer keep fossil fuels along with renewables in its energy mix “because an all-of-the-above approach harms communities”. A role for religious communities is to ensure that those who are most affected by decisions are not excluded from the discussions.
“We can no longer afford to live by the status quo. We have to have a system change. This particular bill provides for a system change, ”said Malcom. “We’re ambassadors for it. We want to make sure it happens.”
Enter your email address to receive free newsletters from EarthBeat.