Religious groups push US congress on poverty and climate change

By staff writers
4 Nov 2007

Religious leaders representing very diverse faith communities with millions of members across the USA are urging their Congress to take urgent action to assist the poor who are facing the brunt of climate change.

The Rev Michael Livingston, president of the National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA), this week joined Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Christian leaders in a telephone news conference.

"It has become clear that global warming is having and will continue to have devastating impacts on those living in poverty around the world, particularly those in least developed countries," said the NCCUSA's Livingston, who is also executive director of the International Council of Community Churches.

"These communities are facing the devastating consequences of global warming including floods, disease and food insecurity," said Livingston in remarks prepared for the event.

"However, we can and must do more and we look forward to working with the Senators to ensure adequate and appropriate support for affected communities," he added.

The news conference was arranged by the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.

The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These NCC member communions have 45 million members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

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This is the full text of the letter from the Rev Michael Livingston, President, National Council of Churches USA

I am here today representing the 35 member denominations of the National Council of Churches in the USA with over 100,000 congregations and 45 million members. They are protestant and orthodox, rich and poor, urban and rural, big churches and small, white, black, brown, yellow and red, republican and democrat and while not all of them agree on much, we do agree on the need to protect God's creation while working for justice for all of God's children.

It has become clear that global warming is having and will continue to have devastating impacts on those living in poverty around the world, particularly those in least developed countries. From the island of Shishmaref off the coast of Alaska that is literally falling into the sea to the coastal communities of India that are being flooded by rising seas and the rural communities of Africa that can no longer ensure food security for their families and their children, global warming is wreaking havoc on God's people. This will only continue as the climate reacts to the greenhouse gases we have already emitted and continue to emit.

As people of faith we are called to work for justice. The U.S. has created more than 25% of global warming pollution and it is our responsibility to not only answer this call but protect and provide for those who will be forced to bear the burden of our actions. The scientific community has told us time and time again that global warming will hit those living in poverty and developing countries the hardest through floods, droughts, an increase in disease, lack of water and civil unrest. Many of these families and individuals are part of the National Council of Churches communities but more importantly they are part of our global community and God's creation.

As a result of these devastating consequences, there is a clear need for adequate resources to empower these individuals and ensure justice for the most vulnerable among us. As Congress continues to discuss and develop climate legislation, they must provide financial support to those living in poverty abroad. In addition, we must continue to assist in the development of adaptation plans for particularly vulnerable communities while also participating in technology transfers and ongoing assessment of the needs of vulnerable communities around the world. These provisions are key elements of any climate legislation as they will ensure the development of international relief, adaptation, and mitigation programs for those impacted by climate change. The Lieberman/Warner climate bill has provided initial support for impacted communities and we commend Senators Lieberman, Warner and Boxer for their work and dedication to addressing these moral issues, particularly our responsibility to protect and provide for our brothers and sisters abroad. These communities are facing the devastating consequences of global warming including floods, disease and food insecurity. However, we can and must do more and we look forward to working with the Senators to ensure adequate and appropriate support for affected communities.

In our efforts to curb global warming and its catastrophic impacts from taking place, we cannot overlook those individuals who are already being affected by the changes we have forced upon God's creation. We must work to allow these individuals and all of God's people to live in God's abundance and with dignity ensuring that basic human needs are provided for in the future. We must provide financial support and the resources necessary to enable our brothers and sisters to eliminate the devastating impacts that global warming will have around the world.

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