WASHINGTON — The chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees offered their support for national standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants in an effort to limit climate change.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, voiced their support in a letter read during an Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Washington July 30.
“We support a national standard to reduce carbon pollution and recognize the important flexibility given to states in determining how best to meet these goals,” said the letter, addressed to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Standards to reduce power plant pollution should protect the health and welfare of people, especially children, the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, the prelates said.
Saying they were addressing the issue from their position as pastors rather than experts on climate change, the bishops cited the words of Pope Francis, who has described creation as a gift from God that humans must protect and use for the benefit of all people.
The bishops explained that their interest in the adoption of strong standards stems from their concern for the effect of climate change on poor people, who often live near power plants.
“Too frequently we observe the damaging impacts from climate-related events in the United States and across the globe, particularly on poor and vulnerable communities. We know that the communities served by Catholic Relief Services are already experiencing tragic consequences of climate change,” they wrote.
CRS is the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.
“Increasingly limited access to water, reduced crop yields, more widespread disease, more frequent and intense droughts and storms as well as conflict over declining resources are all making the lives of the world’s poorest people more precarious,” the bishops added.
The letter also summarized principles from the USCCB’s 2001 statement “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good” as well as the teaching of Pope Francis that could guide the EPA in its work.
Principles cited included respect for human life and dignity, working on behalf of the common good, prioritizing the needs of poor and vulnerable people, promoting social and economic justice, protecting God’s creation and ensuring that local communities have a voice in shaping pollution standards.
“We welcome the EPA’s proposal of a national standard to reduce significantly carbon pollution and call upon our leaders in government and industry to act responsibly, justly and rapidly to implement such a standard,” the letter concluded.