Bishops Urge Global Help in Climate Change Bill

Note Too Little and Too Late in International Assistance

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 26, 2009 ( U.S. bishops are welcoming certain elements of a House of Representatives climate change bill, but cautioning that the measure does not do enough to assist the planet’s poorest nations and people.

In a letter Monday from the bishops’ conference and Catholic Relief Services, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany and Ken Hackett said they are «encouraged by provisions in the legislation that seek to protect the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad.»

«However, we are very concerned about the inadequate funding for assisting the poorest people and countries on earth through international adaptation efforts,» they wrote.

Bishop Hubbard is the chairman of the episcopal conference Committee on International Justice and Peace. Hackett is the president of Catholic Relief Services.

The two called the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) “groundbreaking legislation.» They said it «begins a serious and overdue effort to face up to moral and environmental challenges and represents an important beginning.»

The letter expressed general support for three provisions in the legislation: measure to ensure that low-income U.S. families are not disproportionately affected by a rise in energy prices the legislation could bring about; measures to help non-profit institutions become more energy efficient; and the mechanisms that are in the bill to help international populations.

However, regarding this last point, they contended that funding for international adaptation does not meet initial needs, and increases to the funding are programmed for a too distant future.

“Catholic Relief Services is already experiencing the tragic consequences of climate change in the lives of people living in poverty,” they added. The services already help more than 100 countries adapt to the impact of climate change through health, agriculture, water and emergency preparedness programs.

“As the legislative process moves forward,” Bishop Hubbard and Hackett wrote, “we look forward to working with Congress and the administration to increase funding for international adaptation assistance and taking a major step toward caring for creation and protecting ‘the least of these.’”

The bill is set for vote today in the House of Representatives. Even if it passes there, it is expected to face hurdles in the Senate.

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