On September 21, an estimated 400,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March in New York City ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit. Merv Horst, Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship, and Lawrence Jennings, Infinity Mennonite Church, helped to organize the participation of several dozen Mennonites, including groups from Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and Ontario, Canada.
Jennings, a member of the committee that organized the march, initially focused on outreach to African-American churches of various denominations, realizing how communities of color in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by climate change and how those impacts compound existing health and economic disparities. Later, he and Horst worked together to coordinate Mennonite participation in the march.
In a recent blog post, Jennings wrote, “I am convinced that there is an urgent need to address the damage that humans inflict on the Earth and on each other […] I have come to see that Mennonites have a valuable perspective on this work, because the Anabaptist commitment to nonviolence is as relevant to how we view creation care as it is for directing our opposition to war.”
In many parts of the world, climate change is causing the most suffering for those who already feel the most need. In its global relief, development, and peace work, Mennonite Central Committee partners with vulnerable populations who are impacted by climate change through more frequent floods, droughts, water shortages, famine, and by the conflicts that arise over scarce resources.
In December the U.N. will hold its annual Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. These annual conferences can be a forum for creating international treaties, such as in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 with the Kyoto Protocol (President Clinton signed this agreement but the U.S. Congress never ratified it).
However, in recent years, the conferences have yielded little in terms of meaningful commitments from countries to lower the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. This year, there is renewed energy for working toward a new international agreement at the 2015 conference in Paris, France.
The U.N. Climate Summit this week was one step in getting leaders to make serious commitments and gaining momentum toward the Paris conference.
Speaking at the Summit, President Obama said the U.S. is on track to meet its commitment to reduce U.S. carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Obama touted U.S. progress in wind and solar energy, fuel economy standards, and energy efficiency – all part of the White House Climate Action Plan.
The president made no specific commitments but pledged to set a new U.S. carbon emissions target in 2015 and to continue contributions to the Green Climate Fund. “We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm,” Obama said. “We have to cut carbon pollution […] and we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.”
Encourage President Obama and members of the U.S. Congress to address the root causes of climate change—before it’s too late. Here are three quick ways you can make your voice heard:
- Sign the Faith Climate Petition
- Sign up to receive MCC action alerts on environmental issues
- Join an African American Clergy Open Letter on Climate Change
Tammy Alexander is Senior Legislative Associate for Domestic Affairs at the MCC Washington Office. Printed with permission from Third Way Café. Originally printed on September 25, 2014.