Calls for Climate Justice in Paris

is

Starting Monday, November 30, government officials, corporate heads, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will meet for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) for climate negotiations, this time in Paris.  World leaders and other official summit attendees will be protected by greatly enhanced security because of the tragic terrorist attacks.  Civil society won’t enjoy such protection because demonstrations in Paris have been prohibited.  But around the world people will gather to pray for solace for the victims of Paris and other recent attacks, for the success of the climate talks, and for peace.  People around the world will also gather to demonstrate and call on world leaders to take strong action to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

I was part of the United Methodist delegation to Rio de Janeiro in 1992 during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).  It was clear even then that environmental concerns could not be effectively addressed without simultaneously addressing poverty and inequity.  The governments of the world agreed in principle that “sustainable development” and justice for the poor were inseparable aspects of global action on climate change.  There have been many summits, but greenhouse gas emissions are soaring, global temperatures are rising, while poverty and inequity continue unabated.  People in poor and vulnerable nations, who are not responsible for historic greenhouse gas emissions, are being hit first and worst by typhoons, floods, and killing droughts.  These are the very regions where churches and other nonprofits reach out in compassion to provide relief to those who are in distress.  According to the National Council of Churches, USA:

“The impacts of global climate change threaten all creation and will make it more difficult for people of faith to care for those in need.  With expected increases in drought, storm intensity, disease, species extinction, and flooding, the impacts of global climate change will increase the lack of food, shelter, and water available, particularly to those living in or near poverty.”

Calls for “climate justice” are growing louder.  Negotiators from vulnerable, hard-hit nations are pleading with those in wealthier nations to take strong and binding action to limit greenhouse gas emissions now.  They are calling on world leaders in Paris to establish a just process for transfer of renewable technologies and payment of “climate debt.”  Young people whose futures are being foreclosed are demanding strong and binding action on climate change.  They are calling on negotiators to end fossil fuel subsidies and go beyond corporate-friendly systems of carbon credits and offsets, to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and to transform the systems that are causing climate change.

People of faith and conscience on every continent are calling for those who gather in Paris to establish justice for the poor and vulnerable, intergenerational justice, and justice for all creation.

We must give special attention to the voices of those who live and work on the front lines of climate change: climate activists from the global South, people living in “sacrifice zones” polluted by fossil fuel extraction, women farmers struggling to feed their families, young people speaking out for intergenerational justice, and indigenous peoples calling for policies that respect the rights of the earth. Together this rising chorus expresses the yearnings of people joining together in the growing movement for climate justice and “system change not climate change.”  Their pleas, demands, and warnings urge us to demonstrate God’s care and concern by praying and advocating for just policies on their behalf.

 

Locally Nevada County Climate Change Coalition is organizing a demonstration on Monday, November 30, related to the Paris talks and two prayer vigils on December 1.  To find out more about these actions or to keep up to date on local activities, go to the Nevada County Climate Coalition’s new website and/or “like our Facebook page.

 Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 Sharon’s other blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version. 

 

Climate Talks–Rio to Paris

IMG_8559

Direct Action: Flood the System, Wall Street West San Francisco Financial District. I’m the one with the gray hair. This is where the young people are–where the action is.

I was part of the United Methodist delegation to the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the first major gathering of world leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and corporate heads to focus on climate change and related issues.  Now the world is preparing for the 21st such Conference of the Parties (COP 21).  The governments of the world are still gathering, still negotiating, still talking, yet greenhouse gas emissions are accelerating, average global temperatures are rising, and extreme weather events are breaking records around the world.

The climate talks will take place from November 30 to December 11, amidst demonstrations in Paris and around the world (including here in Nevada County).  In previous climate talks, world leaders have agreed to limit emissions so that global warming will be held to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels in order to prevent the catastrophic consequences that scientists predict if temperatures keep rising.  Demonstrators are organizing major protests because emission limits being discussed before the Paris talks will not hold warming to that level of 2°C.  Average global temperatures have already risen .8°C (1.4°F), accompanied by record-setting extreme weather events on every continent.

Meanwhile, calls for “climate justice” are growing louder.  Everyone will be affected by climate change, but people in poor and vulnerable nations who are not responsible for historic greenhouse gas emissions are being hit first and worst by typhoons, floods, and killing droughts.  They are calling on world leaders in Paris to establish a just process for transfer of renewable technologies and payment of “climate debt.”  Youth whose futures are being foreclosed are rising up to organize direct actions and demand strong and binding action on climate change.  They are calling on negotiators to go beyond corporate-friendly systems of carbon credits and offsets (which consist of trading polluting greenhouse gases), to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and to transform the global system that is causing climate change.  People of faith and conscience on every continent are calling for those who gather in Paris to establish justice for the poor and vulnerable, intergenerational justice, and justice for all creation.

Stay tuned to this blog for more on this topic in the next couple of weeks. Keep demonstrators and negotiators in your prayers.  No matter what the outcome in Paris, this struggle will continue, and I am sure that the God who creates the beauty of the world and who is the love in our hearts is working with us for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

To find out more about demonstrations in your area and around the world, go to 350.org’s The Plan Through Paris.   

Check out the Facebook pages of Earth Justice Ministries  and Nevada County Climate Change Coalition.for information about what’s going on in Nevada County or Northern California.

 

A Call for an Investment Screen on Fossil Fuels

Peoples Climate March in rural Nevada City, California, suffering from drought and  wildfires.  Photograph by Guarionex Delgado

Peoples Climate March in rural Nevada City, California, suffering from drought and wildfires. Photograph by Guarionex Delgado

A Call for an Investment Screen on Fossil Fuels

A Presentation to the United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits by the Reverend Sharon Delgado, November 13, 2014

My name is Sharon Delgado.  I’m a retired clergy woman in the California Nevada Annual Conference.  I’m here today representing our conference Advocacy and Justice Committee.

I appreciate the work of this Board, which safeguards my pension and does the hard work of determining how our investments can be both ethical and profitable.  I appreciate being given this time to share with you about an Investment Screen on fossil fuels.

Thank you, Jenny Phillips, for your presentation on The Last Beneficiary, which gave an overview of this topic and of the Fossil Free UMC movement.

In June, the California Nevada Annual Conference passed a resolution calling for a consultative process with the General Board of Pensions and several Cal-Nevada boards and agencies.  The goal of this process is to work toward an investment screen based on the Natural World section of the Social Principles, and ultimately toward a General Conference resolution.

We hope with this “consultative process” to avoid conflicts with the General Board of Pensions that can result from unilateral calls for divestment.  Also, by calling for an investment screen we are hoping to avoid the legal pitfalls that can arise from divestment.

We know that the Board of Pensions is concerned about climate change.  We want to understand the perspective of Board leaders and hope to find a common strategy to address our shared concerns.  We want this legislation to be informed by various stakeholders, even if all stakeholders don’t agree on the content of the legislation that is developed.

So far, we have been in touch with Anita Green, the Board’s Manager for Sustainable Investment Strategies.  She has been frank and thorough in answering our questions.  We trust that that relationship will continue.

 Specific Requests

We do have two specific requests.  First, we would like a decision by the Board of Pensions about whether the Board is willing to engage in this consultative process.   Ms. Green said that she has gone about as far as she can with us and that we will need to bring in others for a more substantive conversation.   If the Board is willing to go forward with us in a cooperative two-way process, please delegate someone to work with us.

We also request at least three meetings, in person and/or conference calls that include representatives from Cal-Nevada and from the Board of Pensions–one in early or mid-December, one in mid-January, and one in February.  People from Cal Nevada can then ask questions directly, pose suggestions, and get feedback from the Board of Pensions representatives.

Shareholder Advocacy vs. an Investment Screen on Fossil Fuels

 So far the General Board has established investment screens related to human rights but not the natural world.  The Board dealt with environmental concerns through shareholder actions.  But this is not adequate in the case of climate change.  The threat of climate chaos and the unethical behavior of fossil fuel companies makes a screen for fossil fuels necessary.

Besides, it seems that shareholder actions with fossil fuels companies have had little or no effect in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).  For instance, some fossil fuels companies in our pension portfolios have set internal GHG emission reduction goals, but they do not report their goals or results.  These companies have no goals related to lifetime emissions of their products (oil, gas, coal).  In fact, just the opposite:  their goal is to sell and have consumers burn as much of their products as possible.

Funding Climate Change Denial and Lobbying against Climate Legislation

Many fossil fuel companies fund think tanks that promote climate change denial.  This stalls action and increases the risk of runaway climate change.  Some of these think tanks, like the Heartland Institute, worked with the tobacco companies to promote denial about the harmful effects of tobacco.  They are using the same strategy to cast doubt about the science of climate change.  I was told that “this has not yet been part of the conversation” within the Board of Pensions.

Many fossil fuel companies lobby directly and fund organizations that lobby government to block climate change legislation and international treaties.  The Board puts this topic into the broader category of shareholder action related to “political spending,” which is done mostly through cooperative action with other groups.  But blocking climate legislation is too important and the resulting harm too great for this kind of lobbying to be folded into the general category of “political spending.”

If we invest in companies that fund climate change denial and block climate change legislation, it reflects badly on the church, contributes to environmental and social harm, and increases the risk of runaway climate change.

Climate Change as a Human Rights Issue

Climate Change is not just an environmental Issue, but also a human rights issue.  On an international level, the African continent, island nations, and other vulnerable countries are calling for climate justice.  In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the lead negotiator for Philippines fasted throughout the climate summit in Warsaw, while pleading for strong climate action.   The Typhoon killed 4,000 and displaced 4 million people.

In North America the treaty rights of Indigenous peoples are being violated, especially in Canada but also in the United States. This is what activated the Idle No More movement.  Indigenous leaders are calling for support in their struggles to prevent the pollution of the land, air, and water by dirty new extraction technologies.   All over North American, wherever there are fracking fields, tar sands, wetlands near offshore oil platforms, or mountains with their tops being blown off, there are poor communities and communities of color that serve as “sacrifice zones.”

Creating an investment screen on fossil fuels is one way we can take action on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country and in the world.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you about these important issues.  We look forward to further conversations.  I hope we can find a way forward so that we United Methodists are practicing what we preach about climate change.

Stay informed and updated. Go to the Fossil Free UMC website or the Fossil Free UMC Facebook page.    For more general information about the movement to divest from fossil fuels, go to the Go Fossil Free website or the  Fossil Free Facebook page.   Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page.