By Kathy Brown, Regional Coordinator for Caritas North America
The average person in the United States produces 20 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide annually. The average person in Tanzania in East Africa produces 0.1 tonne (according to the United Nations Development Programme). Tanzanians may contribute least to climate change, but are likely to suffer many of its worst consequences such as floods, droughts and other natural disasters.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services (a Caritas member in the US) say any climate change bill considered by the Congress should lower greenhouse gases and protect the poor and vulnerable – both at home and abroad.
Through the Catholic Confront Global Poverty initiative, CRS and the bishops’ conference are mobilizing one million Catholics to learn, pray and act in support of policies that will help address the effects of climate change on poor people worldwide.
Congress is in the process of negotiating a bill related to climate legislation. A bill passed in the House of Representatives, but it did not include strong international adaptation funding.
The debate has now moved to the Senate and campaigners say it is going to be a tough one. Advocacy work is seeking a significant increase in funding for adaption programmes, in the hope that people living in poverty around the world can be protected from the effects of climate change.
In the United States, the Church brings a unique voice to the climate change debate by lifting up both the moral dimensions of caring for God’s creation and the needs of the most vulnerable among us.
The Catholic bishops’ primary concern is to place the life, the dignity and needs of the poor and vulnerable at the centre of the climate legislation. Poor people should not bear an undue burden of the impacts of climate change or the global adjustments needed to address it.
The Church in the United States promotes prudent action to address the growing impact of global climate change and to pursue the common good in a very polarized debate.
CRS has already witnessed the tragic consequences of climate change in the daily lives of people living in poverty. CRS is working diligently to help communities adapt to the consequences of climate change and mitigate its effects through health, agriculture, water, and emergency preparedness programs, and its relief and development efforts in 100 countries.