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Eco-Justice Resolutions
from the Episcopal Church

Facilitate Dialogue on Climate Change and Divestment Strategy

Proposed Resolution for the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA, June-July 2015

Resolution 2015-C013: Facilitate Dialogue on Climate Change and Divestment Strategy

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church welcome the release of the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed carbon rule for existing power plants (Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, 79 Fed.Reg. 34829 (proposed June 18, 2014) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. Pt. 60)); power plants are the single largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States and major contributors to climate change; these emissions not only threaten the environmental stability of our planet, but also the health of young children and their families, disproportionally affecting the poorest among us and all of God's good Creation; and be it further

Resolved, That the Church recommit to Oppose Environmental Racism; coal, gas, oil, and uranium extraction and subsequent transportation threaten the health, sanctity of communities, and the livelihood of future generations; we seek to eliminate the practice of locating such industries disproportionately near neighborhoods inhabited by people of color and low income communities; and be it further

Resolved, That there continue to be diverse opinions and voices concerning whether the Church should divest its holdings in fossil fuel extraction companies as well as those that use substantial amounts of such fuels; it is important that we as a Church have extensive conversations on this critical issue; we ask that the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility of the Executive Council and the Church Pension Fund, in consultation with experts in the fields of economics and investing, ethics, renewable energy development, jointly assess whether the benefit of a divestment strategy would be in compliance with our values and issue a report thereon by the Summer of 2016 and we call on upon the Executive Council to facilitate church-wide dialogue on this subject following the issuance of this report and communicate the results of the dialogue to the 79th General Convention.


Proposer: Episcopal Diocese of California

Explanation:

God calls us to be good stewards of God's good Creation (Gen. 1:31, 2:15). Jesus commands us to care for those who are vulnerable as if we were caring for Him (Mt. 25:40). The Fifth Mark of Mission of the Anglican Communion is "To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth." The Episcopal Church, by its mission, is pledged to the protection and care of God's people and God's Creation.

On June 2, 2014, EPA proposed a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. States, cities and businesses across the country are already taking action to address the risks of climate change. EPA's proposal builds on those actions and is flexible - reflecting that different states have a different mix of sources and opportunities, and reflecting the important role of states as full partners with the federal government in cutting pollution. This proposal will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations.
As a Church committed to the health, flourishing, and sanctity of human communities and God's Creation, we believe that the carbon rule is a critical step toward safeguarding the lives and livelihood of future generations. Recent reports outline the enormous impacts that climate change is already having on our world. Multi-year droughts, sea level rise, extreme weather events, and increased flooding dramatically affect communities internationally, from the Inupiat on the north slope of Alaska to Midwestern farming families to our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. We recognize with concern that climate change particularly harms low income communities that lack the resources and technology to adapt to rapid environmental changes.

There are currently no limits on power plant emissions of greenhouse gases. The carbon rule proposed will reduce the carbon dioxide output from existing power plants, setting a strong standard that will modernize our nation's power plants while limiting our contribution to global climate change. Reducing carbon emissions from power plants must be a top priority for the U.S. if we hope to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and ensure a just and sustainable world for our generation and those to come.

Finally, two factors require the church to address the issue of fossil fuel divestment:

  1. A growing number of religious and educational institutions are committing to divest from fossil fuel holdings, having concluded that it is immoral to profit from an industry whose core business creates climate change and whose financial and political influence has prevented climate change legislation. In the past, under circumstances of grave harm combined with intransigent resistance to change by the offending industry or regime, the church has debated and/or divested from certain industries (tobacco) or from certain companies which support repugnant regimes (South Africa). Such a time has clearly arrived with the fossil fuel industry. Within the past two years, the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association have both voted to divest. The Presbyterian Church USA is studying divestment. The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, in May 2014, became the first Anglican body in the world to divest form fossil fuels. Union Theological Seminary and the University of Dayton, a Catholic University, voted to divest in June 2014.
  2. Investment professionals are now warning about the inevitability of a "carbon bubble," a term referring to the over-valuation of fossil fuel companies which currently depend on fossil fuel reserves as a substantial part of their market value. In the view of an overwhelming majority of scientists and policymakers, approximately 2/3 of these reserves will not be able to be burned due to climate-related factors, which will lead to the devaluation of fossil fuel companies. This raises questions of the duty of the church's investment managers to evaluate this risk.
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The EpEN is a national network of active lay and clergy persons within the Episcopal Church, USA, who share a common concern for the environment and a common belief in the presence of God in all Creation and who work to make these concerns and beliefs known throughout all Provinces and Dioceses within the church. Members come from around the Episcopal Church USA. The activities of the EpEN are focused on the areas of Reflection, Education, and Action. 

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