The following was submitted by David Andes, Elon Community Church in Elon, NC – a solar congregation. David commented, “Last Sunday our Green Church Committee presented the Paris Pledge in church. In preparing to do so, we had to think through how to persuade people to sign a pledge that, on its surface, seemed almost impossible to honor. Thus we created a presentation that encouraged and guided people in how fulfilling the pledge might be accomplished. We are sharing it with you in case you want to use the ideas from it to encourage other people of faith to sign the Paris Pledge.”
We are here today to invite you to join us in the Paris Pledge to renew the earth. A copy of the pledge is in your bulletin. It’s that pretty red, white, and blue card. But before you become absorbed in reading it, let us do some introduction.
Last September, for the first time ever, two major world powers—the U.S. and China—reached a historic agreement to set goals to limit their own carbon emissions. Previously, only the European Union had made such declarations. Since the U.S. and China have signed on, it is now possible that some real progress can be made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next December.
In previous Climate Change conferences, there had emerged agreement that global warming must be kept under 2 degrees Celsius in order to avoid tragic environmental consequences. If we are to accomplish that, the major developed nations need to make reductions in carbon emissions on the order of 50 percent by 2030, and near-total decarbonization of their economies by 2050. That is a tall order, and it will require political will. It will also require broad public support.
Interfaith Power and Light is asking us to provide that support by sending to the UN conference in Paris our pledges that we as individuals will do our part to meet the goals of significantly reducing our own carbon footprints.
Now, if you look at your Paris Pledge cards, you might have the same reactions we did:
“Oh, no. I’ll never be able to do that. I can’t make that pledge.”
or, as some have said…
“No problem. I’ll be carbon neutral myself by 2050!”
But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that we will have some help in reducing our carbon emissions.
First of all, the electricity that we use is likely to get cleaner over the next 15 to 35 years. The EPA, unless politicians stop it, will limit carbon emissions from power plants. Energy generation in general in the U.S. is gradually moving away from coal and nuclear. It is moving toward natural gas (which is less polluting) and renewables, such as solar and wind (which are nonpolluting).
North Carolina has moved to fourth place nationwide in total solar energy development. The North Carolina legislature, with bipartisan support, is considering the Energy Freedom Act, which would allow independent companies to generate and sell solar electricity directly to customers. Solar could generate 20 percent of North Carolina’s electricity within 15 years.
North Carolina also has more potential for offshore wind than any other Atlantic coast state. Just a fraction of the wind energy resources off our coast would help the state meet another 20 percent of its energy needs.
Just as the carbon emissions from electricity produced for use in our homes are likely to decrease, so are the carbon emissions coming from our cars.
The new EPA gas mileage standards will require that by 2025, all cars must average 54.5 miles per gallon. This big improvement is endorsed by industry as well as by environmentalists.
Although hybrids and electric cars account for only a small percentage of American vehicles, their technology continues to improve. For instance, better batteries allow for longer driving distances before recharging is needed. More models with more features are also available.
Biofuels, which are nonpolluting, are used in some vehicles, such as the Elon University shuttle buses.
Technology is helping us reduce our carbon footprints from the electricity we use and from the vehicles we drive.
We can also add to that mix some ordinary purchases in our homes. Over the next 15 to 35 years, we will need to replace appliances, heating and air conditioning systems, roofs, plumbing fixtures, lightbulbs. We can do all that with energy-efficient products.
We know that food production and distribution use tremendous amounts of fossil fuels. The movement toward local and organic foods has gained momentum and popularity. Even if we don’t have our own vegetable gardens, we now have access to farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture, and food co-ops.
Let us also remember that when it comes to our investments in money markets, retirement funds, stocks, and so on, we have some choices. We can divest from fossil fuel stocks. This sends a message that we will not profit by supporting an industry that promotes the production and burning of fossil fuels with no regard to the environmental consequences. You can learn more about divesting from fossil fuels if you attend the meet-and-greet following this service.
Last, we do have personal responsibility for conserving energy whenever and however we can. The other handout in your bulletin offers some practical means for doing that. Take it with you and use it as a reminder of ways you can participate in the resurrection of the earth. Your descendents will thank you for that.
Putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together, then, we believe that most of us are able, in good conscience, to sign and honor the Paris Pledge. It is a statement of our vision for a livable planet. It is a declaration that we will do what we can to take care of this good earth that God has given us. So join us, if you will. Sign the pledge and hand it to one of us as you exit the church. We can work on this little corner of the Kingdom of God together.