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Faith groups urge Trump to embrace duty to protect environment

Catholic groups were among dozens mobilising to prevent any rollback of laws and international agreements protecting the environment in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises to undo directives that he believes hinder business development.

The groups, ranging from individual religious congregations to advocacy organisations, are stressing that the country has a moral responsibility to keep environmental protections in place and to strengthen them to protect the planet and people in poor and vulnerable communities already affected by climate change.

The call from the organisations goes beyond honouring the United States’ commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions under the 2015 Paris climate accord and urges people to contact elected officials about the importance of asking tough questions of Trump’s nominees for environment-related Cabinet posts and upholding the nation’s strong pollution standards that serve the common good.

Among the voices is the Catholic Climate Covenant. Dan Misleh, covenant executive director, told Catholic News Service that Catholic organisations are utilising petitions, sign-on letters, op-ed columns and letters to the editor to add the Catholic voice to the conversation to “maintain and expand” efforts to reduce carbon dioxide pollution, increase energy conservation and boost the use of renewable energy.

As confirmation hearings opened on 18th January for Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the covenant asked its supporters to urge senators to dig into his stances on the role of the federal government in enforcing pollution laws and his ties to the fossil fuel industry. Pruitt has opposed numerous EPA regulations, filing a series of lawsuits as attorney general in Oklahoma against the agency he eventually could lead.

Misleh said that request led to 987 responses and more than 2,000 letters.

He also expressed concern for Trump’s nominees to lead various environment and energy-related government agencies.

“Many of them have expressed skepticism about climate change and appear to be influenced more by the fossil fuel industry. Our hope is that with current business trends in the energy sector and the growing chorus of voices from the faith community and others, that the incoming administration will think twice before rolling back some of these programs,” Misleh said.

On 12th January 32 faith-based organisations released a letter sent earlier to Trump that outlines policy recommendations for 10 key environmental and energy issues. The letter focused on the principles of stewardship, sustainability, justice and dialogue in urging the new administration “to support policies that will safeguard God’s creation, address the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable brothers and sisters and fulfill our moral obligation to future generations” around the world.

Ten Catholic organisations signed on, including the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach; Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States; Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Western American Province; Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Leadership Conference of Women Religious; and Franciscan Action Network.

Rebecca Eastwood, advocacy associate with the Columban center in Washington, told CNS that the group’s concern is rooted in Trump’s stance on the environment.

“We really want to come off strong with that prophetic moral voice to say we have a responsibility, we have a call, to care about and work on these things and we are asking (Trump) to feel that same call and to move forward with these priorities,” she explained.

Picture: President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a pre-Inaugural ‘Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration’ at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on Thursday 19th January 2017. (David J. Phillip/PA).