The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness Raises Grave Concern Over Rollbacks of Climate Protections
March 30, 2017
Washington D.C.- On Tuesday March 29, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that will nullify the Obama administration’s efforts to curb global warming. Although it is not a formal withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, this order forecloses on the possibility of the US meeting the 2015 commitment to roll back emissions by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Our concern as Presbyterians lies not only in our mandate to protect God’s creation, but in the knowledge that the ruins wrought by climate change will fall disproportionately on the backs of the poor, indigenous, and citizens of the Global South.
President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to start the complex and lengthy legal process of unraveling and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, frozen construction of new plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms. It was projected to prevent nearly 3,000 premature deaths and almost 100,000 asthma attacks per year by 2030. Every child has the right to a pollution free environment and we have a moral obligation to protect God’s gift of air for our children and grandchildren. Beyond the Clean Power Plan, Trump’s order prioritizes the development of domestic coal, oil and natural gas reserves over renewable energy sources and opens federal land to coal leases.
Office of Public Witness Director, Rev. Jimmie Hawkins remarked:
The President’s Executive Order on climate change is a tragic turn for the future of this nation and for the entire planet. By this one stroke of his pen, the president has rescinded the Coal Mining Moratorium on US federal lands and substantially weakened a number of environmental protections. His signature threatens the health of children already suffering with respiratory illness, endangers seniors living in environments already polluted by industrial waste and places at risk the well-being of every living person the world around. As people of faith who believe in a God of creation who commands good and proper stewardship of this gift, we must speak with one voice that this world is worth protecting. We affirm that climate change is real and impacted by the actions of human beings. We can protect the environment and affirm the dignity of work as we come together to produce solutions which enhance all aspects of created life . But environmental justice must be a priority or we will not have a future to work towards. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,… and God saw that it was good.” (Gen 1:1; 10b)
Legal experts say it could take years for the E.P.A. administrator to carry out the process of withdrawing and revising the climate change regulations, and the process will be hit by legal challenges at every turn. More than anything, this executive order is a signal by the Trump administration that they do not intend to take seriously the threat of climate change.
The primary motivation for the order, according to the Trump Administration is to bring jobs back to coal country. As Presbyterians, we have deep care and consideration for families who rely on extractive industries for their livelihood. But the reality is that markets are already shifting to favor investment in renewable energy and this political measure is unlikely to reverse the decline of the coal industry.
In difficult times, we refer back to a report entitled “The Power to Change” Approved by the 218th General Assembly:
The challenge we face is daunting. The temptation to despair is real. Only God can give us the power to change. Our Reformed tradition reminds us that it is God who created the earth and saw that it was good, God who sustains the earth and seeks to hold its processes together, God who judges sin and greed, and God who reveals in Jesus Christ that love and justice are the essence of God’s power. God is the inexhaustible source of energy for personal, social, and ecological transformation. Although we are complicit in the evils we face, we can repent of our own sinful misuse and abuse of the Earth as we confess our sins. As recipients of God’s endless mercy, this redemptive energy frees and empowers us to be good stewards of God’s creation.