Religious Groups Push Climate Aid for Poor

An alliance of religious groups is vowing a relentless push to restore a key provision to assist the international poor in America's Climate Security Act, the first greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill with a realistic chance of passage in the Senate.

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An alliance of religious groups is vowing a relentless push to restore a key provision to assist the international poor in America's Climate Security Act, the first greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill with a realistic chance of passage in the Senate.

In a press conference today, top faith leaders from the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, and the Union of Reform Judaism emphasized the need for U.S. funding of adaptation efforts in the world's poorest countries, which emit relatively little carbon dioxide but may be hardest hit by global warming because of their locale and lack of infrastructure and money.

"As always, poor and working-class people need advocates, and that is what the faith community traditionally does," Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, told U.S. News before the press conference. "We plan to be sending out materials to delegations and making phone calls. The single most striking thing about us and this issue is the degree of unity across the ideological spectrum. We see this as an extension of our traditional concern for the international and domestic poor."

A provision of the bill that would have earmarked 10 percent of the proceeds from auctions of carbon caps to international adaptation was struck from the bill, which was authored by Sens. John Warner and Joseph Lieberman. The faith community reacted swiftly, surprising staffers for Warner and Lieberman as well as Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, according to one insider.

In response, a new provision has been proposed that reduces the earmark from 10 percent to 5 percent, while requiring that the money would be released only to deter a national security threat to the United States, such as a refugee crisis. Faith-based leaders call the measure insufficient. According to one insider, these faith-based leaders are working behind the scenes, using the strength of their congregations to pressure conservative senators to restore the original provision.

—Bret Schulte