By Christie Duncan-Tessmer
This week, 192 nations are meeting in Paris for the 2015 Conference on Climate Change. Most climate scientists and policymakers view the conference as the last chance for negotiating an agreement to reduce global carbon emissions in time to prevent unmanageable climate catastrophes during the lives of today's children.
One essential aspect of committing to effective change is support for the Green Climate Fund. The fund was established by the United Nations in 2010 as an outcome of past climate negotiations. It receives financial contributions from industrialized nations, corporations, and foundations and distributes the money to help poor nations limit or reduce their carbon emissions and adapt to climate disruption. Developing nations will insist on commitments to the fund, especially from the United States, before they will agree to reduce their carbon emissions. Twenty-nine nations have already committed to contribute almost $6 billion to this fund, with the United States pledging $3 billion by 2020. However, Congress has yet to approve any funds toward fulfilling this pledge.
Our nation's response to this moral imperative now lies with the Senate, which soon must act on the Obama administration's request to include $500 million in the 2016 federal budget for our initial contribution to the Green Climate Fund. How the Senate responds will have a very significant effect in facilitating or impeding negotiations.
The Religious Society of Friends believes that with divine guidance, the Earth can become a safe home for all its people. But that will require major changes in regional, national, and global policies and relationships. We hold this conviction with humility and a clear understanding of the limits to what we can do, but also knowing that our efforts are required if we are to serve the future well-being of life on Earth.
Through worship, Friends seek to understand the continuing revelation of divine truth. This has long led us to honor the truths that scientists discover. The simple truth climate science has determined beyond any reasonable doubt is that increased carbon emissions, largely due to human activities, have already destabilized regional climates on a global scale.
Recent events at home and abroad highlight Friends' continuing concerns about racial and ethnic discrimination in our own communities. We often lose sight of the reality that climate disruption is an instigator of violent conflict and a stark example of institutional racism. Millions of the world's disadvantaged people of color, who are least responsible for carbon pollution, are most severely harmed by its effects.
This reality is inextricably linked to all of our Quaker testimonies: on peace, justice, integrity, simplicity, and environmental stewardship. Thus Friends respond to climate change as a profound moral and spiritual issue that we must confront. This moral and spiritual imperative has been recognized by the leadership of virtually all the world's major religious denominations and most powerfully underscored by the recent encyclical of Pope Francis.
Last summer, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (the regional Quaker organization covering eastern and central Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland's Eastern Shore) joined many other faith-based organizations - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim - in asking Congress to approve the requested appropriation of $500 million for the Green Climate Fund.
We urge everyone who believes in justice for all, and who wants our children to have a climate they can live with, to contact their senators about sustaining the administration's request for our nation's initial contribution to the Green Climate Fund.
Christie Duncan-Tessmer is general secretary of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. CDuncan-Tessmer@pym.org