Adding to the Clean Energy Chorus: Voices of Faith

man-pixabayDiverse groups are creating a healthy dialogue on climate change and clean energy. In addition to ethnicity, diversity includes geographical representation, political affiliation, socio-economic backgrounds – and religious beliefs.

One notable group, Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), is mobilizing millions of people of faith to be better stewards of energy and the environment. Founded in 1998, IPL now has chapters in more than 40 states and represents 15,000 congregations. IPL works with congregations to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change.

In addition to clean energy advocacy, IPL recognizes that public policies – local, state and federal – play a pivotal role in reducing reliance on fossil fuels and expanding energy choices. IPL rightly focuses attention on communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, advocating for strong adaptation and mitigation actions to protect all communities – from the coast to the heartland. These communities, which are least responsible for activities and decisions that adversely impact the climate, suffer the most.

In my home state of North Carolina, the IPL chapter is part of the N.C. Council of Churches, which represents 6,200 congregations. The chapter recently held a Clean Energy Advocacy Day that drew members and clergy from around the state to the legislature to meet with elected officials. They logged an impressive 27 meetings in just one day.

Their faith-based messages to lawmakers were to expand consumer energy choice with third-party sales, keep the renewable energy tax credit, and protect the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS). They also presented an open letter to the General Assembly with over 50 signatures from faith leaders supporting solar energy, which is a significant contributor to North Carolina’s economy.

Working together with IPL has taught me more about their work and focus on advocating through compassion, which involves sharing personal beliefs, values, and stories with elected officials. For example, some places of worship are interested in solar energy because it allows them to use a natural resource that lowers energy budgets while reducing air and water pollution associated with fossil fuels. The cost savings can help congregations pay utility bills or redirect funds to program areas that support their community mission.

Communities of faith provide a unique perspective on reducing carbon emissions, and more places of worship are including the concept of caring for Creation in their missions and sermons. These voices can speak directly to the changes they would like to see in their homes, places of worship, and their communities.

I applaud the efforts of IPL and other religious organizations committed to this charge. Let’s keep the faith that we will continue to move toward an inclusive and just clean energy future.

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