Climate Change Resolution 2005
From the Central Conference of American Rabbis
Adopted by the 116th Annual Convention of the CentralConference of American Rabbis
In December 1997, the nations of the world gathered in Kyoto, Japan to develop a treaty with binding commitments to address the threat of climate change. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of over 2,000 climate scientists from around the world was charged to evaluate the data on climate change to inform the treaty negotiations. IPCC has documented a number of changes in the earth’s atmosphere that are attributed to human activity, causing elevated levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that are heating the earth’s surface.
On February 16, 2005, the Kyoto Treaty entered into force, with most of the world’s industrialized nations committing to reducing their output of heat trapping carbon emissions. While the Kyoto Protocol represents a monumental step in global cooperation to address an Earth-threatening problem, some environmentalists believe that Kyoto is too-little-too-late. The United States, which produces one quarter of the world’s CO2
, while representing only 4 percent of the world’s population, is not participating in the Protocol. India and China, developing nations with large populations and fast-paced industrialization, are also not participating. More must be done.
The following Jewish and secular moral principles serve as the foundation for the Conference.s position on the development of agreements and policies to address climate change:
Responsibilities to Future Generations: “Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:20) Humankind has a solemn obligation to improve the world for future generations. Minimizing climate change requires us to learn how to live within the ecological limits of the Earth, so that we will not compromise the ecological or economic security of those who come after us.
Integrity of Creation: “The human being was placed in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it.” (Genesis 2:15) Humankind has a solemn obligation to protect the integrity of ecological systems, so that their diverse constituent species, including humans, can thrive.
Equitable Distribution of Responsibility: Nations’ responsibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions should correlate to their contribution to the problem. The United States has built an economy highly dependent upon fossil fuel use that has affected the entire globe, and must therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that corresponds to its share of the problem.
Protection of the Vulnerable: “When one loves righteousness and justice, the earth is full of the loving-kindness of the Eternal.” (Psalm 33:5) The requirements and implementation procedures to address climate change must protect those most vulnerable to climate change both here in the United States and around the globe: poor people, those living in coastal areas, those who rely on subsistence agriculture.
Sustainable Development: The Earth cannot sustain the levels of resource exploitation currently maintained by the developed world. As we work towards global economic development, the developed world should promote the use of renewable energy sources and new technologies, so that developing nations do not face the same environmental challenges that we face today because of industrialization.
Strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is consistent with a number of long-standing public policy priorities, including: improving air quality, increasing mass transit, development of non-polluting alternative energy sources, energy efficiency and energy conservation.
Together, the people of the world can, and must, use our God-given gifts to develop innovative strategies to meet the needs of all who currently dwell on this planet, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
THEREFORE the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolves to:
- Call on the United States Congress to take leadership on the issue of Global Climate Change and support the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. The bill would reduce the dangerously high level of current greenhouse gas pollution by scaling back emissions to year 2000 levels by 2010. By creating a business-friendly design in which unused emissions credits can be bought and sold, the Climate Stewardship Act will have a positive effect on the environment, and will encourage American industry to be more innovative and cost effective, leading to further economic growth;
- Urge the federal government to immediately adopt a variety of policies to accomplish emissions reductions, including: instituting programs that use pricing to lower demand for fossil fuels; encouraging the development of non-polluting energy sources; and raising revenue for public projects such as mass transit, that would lower carbon emissions. Additionally, standards relating to fossil fuel use, such as power plant emissions standards and motor vehicle fuel efficiency standards, should require the use of the most advanced fuel efficiency and emissions reduction technologies available;
- Urge the federal government to complement the above policies with programs to help those Americans whose economic security would be jeopardized by such policies, including assistance to poor people to compensate for increased
expenses for electricity, fuel, and transportation and retraining and economic transition assistance for coal miners and other affected workers;
- Urge the federal government to work cooperatively with other nations to address climate change through participation in international bodies, treaties and protocols and through the promotion of international development efforts that promote environmental sustainability; and
- Urge institutions within the Jewish community to promote and provide resources to conduct energy audits of private homes and communal facilities, including synagogues, schools, community centers and commercial buildings and to promote eco-friendly purchasing.