Megan Gregory - “Our Message: By divesting from fossil fuels, the PC(USA) can respond faithfully to God’s call to care for the Earth and for vulnerable sisters and brothers.

 

Sisters and brothers in Christ, on behalf of Fossil Free PC(USA), thank you for your service to our Church.  I am Megan Gregory, a Deacon from the Geneva Presbytery in New York state, and I speak in support of the overture “On Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies.” 

 

With faith, hope, and urgency, we are asking for divestment of our denomination’s holdings in fossil fuel companies within five years, as part of our church’s response to climate change.

 

Scientists agree that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are the main cause of global warming and its devastating impacts on agriculture, public health, and vulnerability to disasters.[i]   

 

We are deeply distressed by this, because our faith calls us to be good stewards of the earth,[ii] and to care for the poor and vulnerable.[iii]

 

In 2008, the PC(USA) affirmed the goal of limiting the increase in Earth’s temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius.[iv]  To achieve this, we must act now to prevent the burning of most fossil fuel reserves.  Indeed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that any delay in transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy will endanger society’s chances of staying within the two-degree limit.[v] 

 

Given this urgency, now is a crucial time for the church to lend moral leadership to the movement for climate justice.  As such, we do not believe that we can address the crisis of climate change through a long process of phased, selective divestment, which would require additional engagement with individual companies.  Rather, this assembly has the opportunity to make an immediate commitment to categorical divestment from the fossil fuel industry.  Such courageous action is needed for three reasons:

 

1.      First, divestment makes a strong moral statement.  It ensures that our church does not finance, nor profit from, activities that cause suffering for God’s children and God’s earth, and undermine internationally recognized goals on climate change mitigation.

2.      Second, as part of a global movement, divestment by the PC(USA) can build public awareness of the dangers and injustice of fossil fuel dependence.  This, in turn, can inspire public pressure on our government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and on corporations to transition to renewable energy.

3.      Third, divestment frees financial resources for positive investments in viable renewable energy solutions.[vi]

 

We are committed to protecting our global climate as stewards of all Creation.  Yet we also hold particular people and places in our hearts.  I speak on behalf of the farming community in El Salvador where I served in the Peace Corps.  As climate change increases erratic weather patterns and disrupts their farming systems, families that I love are losing precious harvests. 

 

By divesting from fossil fuel companies, the church can support a global movement for climate justice that offers hope for people like my Salvadoran family, whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by climate change.


[i] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group (WG) II.  2014.  Summary for Policymakers.  In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability:  Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC [Field et al., (eds.)].  Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA.  Accessed online at:

[ii] Genesis 2:15; Leviticus 25:24

 

[iii]Leviticus 25:39-41; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Isaiah 58:6-10; Matthew 25:31-36

 

[iv]The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming.  Developed by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) and approved by the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), 2008.  Accessed online at: http://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/acswp/pdf/energyreport.pdf, 8 June 2014.  (p. 3)

 

[v] The IPCC estimates that future rise in the global average temperature could be limited to ~1 degree Celsius above 1986-2005 temperatures (approximately 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels), based on a “peak-and-decline” scenario in which global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions peak in 2020 and decline sharply thereafter.  However, this would require bold policy action to limit GHG emissions in general and fossil fuel use in particular.  Substantial progress towards a completely renewable energy economy that emits no GHGs would be needed by mid-century.  See:

 

IPCC WG I.  2013:  Summary for Policymakers.  In Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.  Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC [Stocker et al. (eds.)].  Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA.  Accessed online at: http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/docs/WGIAR5_SPM_brochure_en.pdf, 9 June 2014  (p. 21).

 

And:

IPCC WG III. 2014.  Summary for Policymakers.  In Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change:  Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC [Edenhofer et al. (eds.)].  Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA.  Accessed online at:

http://report.mitigation2014.org/spm/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers_approved.pdf, 9 June 2014.  (p. 13)

 

[vi] Studies at both the global level and for the United States show that it is possible to transition to reliance on existing wind, water, and solar energy technologies, with 80-85% of existing energy replaced by 2030 and 100% by 2050.  See:

 

Jacobsen, M.Z. and M.A. Delucchi.  2009.  A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030.  Scientific American, November 2009: 58-65.  Accessed online at:  http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/sad1109Jaco5p.indd.pdf, 15 June 2014.

 

Jacobsen, M.Z. et al.  2014.  100% Wind, Water, Sunlight (WWS) All-Sector Energy Plans for the 50 United States.  Accessed online at: http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/USStatesWWS.pdf, 15 June 2014.