Now Available: Video of Main Line IPL Chapter’s January 23rd Program!

What Does the Climate Crisis Mean for Local Streams & Rivers?

For our January 23rd program, we join Lauren McGrath, Director of the Watershed Protection Program at Willistown Conservation Trust, to explore the impact of climate change on waterways, learn more about the connection between land and water, and identify how individuals can build climate resilience in their communities. What does the climate crisis mean for local streams and rivers? How does human activity on the landscape impact stream habitat?

Found 20 miles west of Philadelphia, Willistown Conservation Trust focuses on 28,000 acres within the watersheds of Ridley, Crum, and Darby Creeks of Chester and Delaware Counties. Since 1996, the Trust has helped to permanently conserve over 7,500 acres, including three nature preserves open to the public: Ashbridge Preserve, Kirkwood Preserve, and Rushton Woods Preserve, which is home to Rushton Conservation Center and Rushton Farm. The Trust offers six renowned programs for public engagement and research: the Bird Conservation, Community Farm, Education and Outreach, Land Protection, Stewardship, and Watershed Protection Programs.


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COP-27 Report

This blog is part of a 3 part series, go here to read the first article, and here to read the third article.

Being at COP27 was an incredible experience in so many ways. From witnessing global leaders engaging in important conversations, to watching demonstrations from climate activists in solidarity for climate justice, to living across two different time zones at the same time – it went by so quickly! While COP27 is over, our work is really just beginning in sharing the lessons learned and next steps from here. Faith-based organizations present at COP27 brought a powerful moral accountability to a conference that is heavy on policy, politics, and the powerful. Big polluters warm our world, cut our trees, and vanquish our futures in the names of the gods of wealth, greed, and power. They must be held accountable.

Many significant things happened during COP27, here’s a summary of a few that stood out particularly to me:

  • Commitments from the United States (link to report)
    • Set an economy-wide target of reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030
    • Set a goal to reach 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035
    • Made promises to invest in transportation, construction, carbon capture incentives, and agriculture. 
  • Establishment of a loss and damage fund
    • A historic win that secures funds for countries historically stripped of resource and experiencing the devastation of intensified weather patterns and climate change
    • This win was thanks to the tireless advocacy of environmental justice activists, including from faith communities
    • We are still waiting to see what mechanisms will be employed to distribute these resources
  • Lack of significant progress on ambition
    • We still need a commitment to the complete phasing out of fossil fuels and increased acceleration
    • It is unclear how we will meet the goals promised in the Paris Agreement
    • We saw more fossil fuel delegates than ever at this COP
    • We need to pay attention to the gendered impacts of climate change, and ensure representation of young, women, and gender non-conforming people in decision-making processes

My heart is heavy that these conversations are so slow-moving when we are running out of time. Heavy at the recalcitrance of wealthy nations to center environmental justice. Heavy that those who will suffer most from climate inaction continue to be a political bargaining chip, instead of a moral responsibility.  However, this experience also left me feeling hopeful. Hopeful because I witnessed how a groups of strangers came together to form powerful voices speaking truth on a global stage. Hopeful because with all its flaws COP27 does provide the opportunity for facilitated conversation and unique partnerships that do better our world. Hopeful at the witness of young people, leading conversations and demanding accountability and justice. Hopeful because my faith does not lie exclusively in decision-making bodies, but in the collective power of us, activated by love. Our various traditions invite us to imagine how we participate in this world, love this world, and care for this world. These efforts are never wasted – for we are transformed in the doing, in the process, in the loving, into the kind of people that truly can heal the world. 

Many times over the past two weeks, I’ve returned to the happy memory of my childhood – standing in the mud at the river bank, water lapping gently at my feet. The feeling of my body connecting me to a wild network of ecosystems, intricate workings of which I had no clue. Yet I knew this to be true – this system supported me. It was a sacred place. And it still is, motivating me to work alongside each of you as we seek a faithful response to climate change.

Go here to learn more about National IPL and the faith voice at COP27: https://www.interfaithpowerandlight.org/?s=cop27


This blog was written by PA IPL Executive Director, Katie Ruth. Katie was part of a hybrid delegation to COP27, representing the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Espicopal Church. Views shared here do not necessarily reflect those of the delegation or Episcopal Church.

COP-27 Overview

This November, the world gathered in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, for the 27th United Nations Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (or COP27) to discuss and implement climate action. 198 countries have ratified the convention, which first took effect in 1994 and hopes to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C, and mitigate the dangerous effects of human-induced climate change. More than 100 heads of state and many thousands of delegates convened to review the most pressing climate issues of our time, including climate finance, matters relating to developing countries, gender, and capacity-building under the convention.

By the end of COP27, one issue on the agenda stood above the rest: loss and damage. According to Dr. Adelle Thomas, a lead author on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Sixth Assessment Report and the Special Report on 1.5°C, defines loss and damage as the negative impacts of climate change that occur in the absence of mitigation and adaptation, such as infrastructure damage or climate disaster trauma. Vulnerable groups such as women and those of lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by losses and damages, and the effects are felt more heavily in developing countries. If losses and damages are not mitigated, a severe lack of economic output, livelihood, biodiversity, and community will follow. By the time COP27 closed, an agreement had been reached to provide funding that aims to help countries respond to loss and damage, particularly countries in the Global South. A 2022 statement by the Inter-religious Climate and Ecology Network demanded exactly this in September, urging countries in the Global North to recognize their historical role in exacerbating climate change, and to acknowledge that the poorest 50% of the world’s population emit only 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The understanding that climate change impacts are growing – and that they hit harder for disadvantaged groups and developing countries – is particularly relevant for people of faith. Climate is quickly becoming a focal point of faith discussions all around the world. In 2014, international faith leader and Thiền Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in a statement published by the UNFCCC: “Whatever nationality or culture we belong to, whatever religion we follow, whether we’re Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or atheists, we can all see that the Earth is not inert matter … cherishing our precious Earth … is not an obligation. It is a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.” St. Francis of Assisi, declared the patron saint of ecology by Pope John Paul II, wrote in his Canticle of the Creatures, “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.” His words were echoed by Pope Francis in a 2014 encyclical letter, in which he wrote that the “bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace” is inseparable. Similar sentiments regarding the environment are reflected in Hindu scripture, according to the Hindu American Foundation. This is an assertion that the Hindu Climate Declaration reflects: “We have a dharmic duty for each of us to do our part in ensuring that we have a functioning, abundant, and bountiful planet.” In Turkey in 2015, the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change asserted that “Islam’s teachings, which emphasize the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher’s role as an appointed guide to correct behavior, provide guidance to take the right action on climate change.” The Union for Reform Judaism puts forward the concept of pikuach nefesh – the principle that preserving human life is of utmost importance – in regards to our environment. The growth of climate change as a topic of discussion amongst faith communities speaks to the common concerns of justice, stewardship and suffering.

We know that climate change and its deleterious effects should motivate people of faith to take action, but the path forward can be hard to envision on such a large scale. The average person doesn’t have the time, resources, or capability to consider the international perspective in everything that we do. Narrowing our focus to local climate-related concerns is just as helpful and rewarding. Pennsylvania endures its own unique climate challenges worth examining, and one of the most pervasive is fracking. Fracking is the more commonly-repeated name for hydraulic fracturing, the process by which pressurized fluid and other substances (usually sand and various chemicals) are injected via borehole into rock layers beneath the earth. This pressure opens fractures through which oil and natural gas underground can move with more ease, allowing for their extraction. Current guidelines allow for fracking wells to operate within 500 feet of a residence in Pennsylvania. Though some contend that fracking is safe for residents and that current guidelines are effective in protecting public health, research suggests otherwise. According to a new study from the Yale School of Public Health, children who grew up within a mile of a fracking well have an increased risk of developing leukemia – twice as high as children who did not grow up in such proximity. These results suggest that pollutants resulting from fracking are disproportionately affecting children – one of the most vulnerable groups identified by the UNFCCC

Protect Penn-Trafford, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that advocated for the rights of residents of Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, identifies leachate as a major public health and environmental concern. Leachate is liquid runoff from landfills. Waste materials from fracking are dumped in these landfills, and exposure to rain creates hazardous liquid. That liquid is then treated in sewage treatment plants and released into rivers and streams, despite the fact that fracking waste can contain radioactive materials which Pennsylvania’s water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out. This water becomes our drinking water. In addition, the Environmental Health Project asserts that fracking releases toxic chemicals into water when fluid from the drilling process contacts water sources, either during the process or during transportation of waste. Spilled water can introduce heavy metals and chemicals into soil, which humans ingest when eating affected food sources, such as livestock and their byproducts.

As we face the growing climate crisis both at home in Pennsylvania and internationally, it becomes imperative that people of faith who care cultivate a meaningful response. Climate change threatens to displace millions (as it did this year in Pakistan) and cause an enormous loss of health, community, and quality of life. No one faith community owns the concept of environmental justice. It follows, then, that no one faith community can lead the response; it must be a continuous interfaith effort to protect our most vulnerable and act as good stewards to the planet.


This blog was written by PA IPL 2022 Fellow, Renika Weimer.

Solutions for Pollution

An Open Letter to President Biden

As we kick off the Solutions for Pollution campaign, we call on President Biden to urge him to carry out his responsibilities under our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, by advancing approximately 20 protections across federal agencies that could cut climate pollution in half by 2030, advance vital public health and environmental justice goals, accelerate the transition to clean energy, and create new economic opportunity.

Read the letter below and then sign on here.

To: President Joe Biden
From: [Your Name]

Dear President Biden:

​When you were campaigning for and then elected President, you laid out the most ambitious climate plan in American history, including a pledge to cut climate pollution in the United States in half by 2030 to take the urgent action on the climate crisis that science demands. You rightly committed to fighting environmental injustices and setting strong standards to protect our health and the environment.

To keep your climate promise and protect our health and our communities – especially those that have traditionally been overburdened with pollution – we need action NOW. That is why, together, we are launching the Solutions for Pollution campaign to urge you to carry out your responsibilities under our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, by advancing approximately 20 protections across federal agencies that could cut climate pollution in half by 2030, advance vital public health and environmental justice goals, accelerate the transition to clean energy, and create new economic opportunity. We are calling on you to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and other federal agencies set the strongest possible standards to clean up power plants, transportation, industrial sources, and other pollution–and that they move swiftly as the science demands.

While we have numerous priorities and perspectives, one thing we all agree on is that adopting strong solutions for pollution will protect our health and environment, advance environmental justice in traditionally overburdened communities, and accelerate the transition to clean energy like wind, solar, and other renewables to power America into the future.

Our communities desperately need clean air and a healthy climate. By implementing the Solutions for Pollution Action Plan, your administration will reduce the pollution driving climate change and aggravating chronic diseases like heart disease, asthma attacks, and other respiratory issues that disproportionately harm vulnerable populations, including traditionally overburdened communities, children, outdoor workers, and the elderly.

Time is running out. The longer we delay, the higher the cost of inaction is to Americans in lives, dollars, and harm to the environment. We need your administration to implement the Solutions for Pollution Action Plan now to ensure clean air, clean water, and healthy communities across the country. Climate can’t wait. Neither can we.

Respectfully,
Sign Here

Senate Passes Inflation Reduction Act with Historic Climate Investments

August 5, 2022

Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Senate voted to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, the most significant climate bill in history. The bill will put the nation on the path to cut climate pollution emissions up to 44% by 2030, create millions of good-paying clean energy jobs, invest in environmental justice, and reduce energy bills for working families across the country. 

With $369 billion in energy and climate investments, this is the single biggest U.S. investment aimed at tackling climate change. It includes:

  • Clean energy tax credits for wind and solar, electric vehicles, efficiency upgrades, and heat pumps
  • More than $60 billion for environmental justice priorities
  • Up to $60 billion for domestic clean energy manufacturing
  • $27 billion to speed the development of emissions reductions technologies, especially in disadvantaged communities

The Inflation Reduction Act also includes troubling provisions around fossil fuel expansion and other false solutions that will continue to place frontline communities at risk. Interfaith Power & Light is concerned about a deal for a proposal to include drastic permitting changes in must-pass legislation Congress will take up this fall. We will work to address those provisions in this bill, oppose any weakening of our environmental review process, and advocate for bold executive action from the Biden Administration so that the U.S. can meet our climate goals.

The faith community has been advocating for passage of climate and clean energy investments for the last two years and celebrates this huge victory.

In response, Interfaith Power & Light’s President Rev. Susan Hendershot released this statement:

“Budgets are moral documents, and where we choose to invest as a nation is an indication of what we value. Today, the Senate chose to take moral leadership and demonstrate that they value the health of our families and communities; jobs that can provide good wages; clean air, water, and soil; environmental justice for historically marginalized communities; and care for our common home, through the historic climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. We applaud and celebrate the passage of this critical legislation in the Senate, and now call on the House of Representatives and President Biden to act swiftly to pass this bill because climate can’t wait.”

Rev. Robin Blakeman, West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light Steering Committee Member:

“Climate change is already taking an enormous toll on our communities. We have a moral obligation to protect people and the planet. I am glad that Senator Manchin finally supported the legislation to address the critical needs of our nation. Addressing the urgency of climate change is key to ensuring survival of our society and economy.”

Rev. Doug Bland, Executive Director of Arizona Interfaith Power & Light: 

“People of faith and conscience in Arizona have demanded congressional action on climate. We’re grateful to Senator Sinema and Senator Kelly for supporting this historic bill to transition rapidly to clean energy, and make our country healthier and more prosperous for all communities.We have a moral imperative to act — fires are raging and communities are flooding. We can’t afford not to act boldly for the future of our children and our precious planet home.”

Codi Norred, Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light:

“The Inflation Reduction Act is an essential initial investment in our future and our common home. We have no time to waste. The climate care provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act are historic and are imperative in addressing the urgent moral issue of climate justice. We are thankful to Senators Warnock and Ossoff for supporting these bold investments that will match the scale of the crisis our communities need.”

David Heayn-Mendendez, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light:

“We have a moral obligation to protect people and the planet and climate change is already taking an enormous toll on our communities. This is the most significant climate bill in history and will put our nation on the path to cut climate pollution emissions up to 44% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels while creating millions of good paying clean energy jobs, invest in environmental justice, and reduce energy bills for working families across the country.”

Article: Faith groups respond to Sen. Manchin’s surprise climate deal with shock, optimism

Washington, D.C.
July 28, 2022

Great and relevant article in the National Catholic Reporter yesterday:

Democrats in the U.S. Senate reached a deal July 27 to secure $369 billion in investments on energy and climate change in what would represent the nation’s largest-ever spending package to address the impacts of global warming. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Faith groups responded to the historic, and for many unexpected, milestone of a potential breakthrough on climate legislation . . . with a mixture of joy, shock and cautious optimism after years of prayer and advocacy.

Read the full article here!