An Earth Day reflection
Megan Eaton, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, Domestic affairs intern
As we approach Earth Day, it is a good time to reflect on the United States’ global commitments to address the causes and effects of climate change.
In 2015, countries from around the world came together to write the Paris Agreement, a legally binding accord to address climate change. The agreement seeks to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius through a global response and to help countries address the negative impacts of climate change. All 193 member countries of the United Nations have signed on to the accord. The U.S. is the only country to subsequently reject the agreement.
On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would begin the process to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, citing a concern that the accord would undermine the U.S. economy, putting the nation at a disadvantage. The soonest the U.S. can officially withdraw is November 4, 2020. Until this time, the U.S. must abide by the obligations set out in the contract, such as requirements to report annual emissions.
The Trump administration also stopped contributions to the Green Climate Fund which provides aid to low-income communities affected by climate change. The U.S. committed to giving $3 billion to the fund but had only paid $1 billion by 2016.
On March 29, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) introduced the Climate Action Now Act, H.R. 9, in response to President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord. The bill calls for the president to develop a plan for meeting U.S. requirements previously agreed to under the Paris Agreement. The plan must: 1) cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and 2) confirm that other parties in the agreement are fulfilling their contributions. The bill also prohibits federal funds from being used to pull out of the agreement.
The communities most affected by the change in climate are some of the poorest and most vulnerable and those who have the least control over the emissions that are causing climate change. These communities disproportionately suffer from hurricanes, floods, drought, famine and water scarcity. These impacts also contribute to disease, conflict and migration. It is important for the U.S. to act because, as Deliris Agosto Centeno, a participant in the United Methodist Women’s New Generations Climate Justice Program 2016, stated “I belong to a generation that is living a sort of transition – from a planet with unlimited resources to one that has little time left to live. As young people it is our opportunity to make the changes.”
Numbers 35:34 states, “You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell.” God has called us to be stewards of the Earth and to care for the people on it. If the causes and effects of climate change are not addressed, both God’s people and God’s planet will continue to suffer.
The Climate Action Now Act is expected to go to the House floor for a vote in the next few weeks. Urge your representative to vote yes to maintain the U.S. commitment to address climate change. Learn more about climate change here.