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Time for Senate to Act on Clean Energy

Time for Senate to Act on Clean Energy

Saperstein: "Comprehensive climate legislation should be rooted in the principles of stewardship, sustainability, and social justice, protecting both Gods creation and all people, especially those most vulnerable to the effects of both climate change and new energy policies." 

Contact: Kate Bigam or Rachel Cohen
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WASHINGTON, D.C., March 23, 2010 - Joining a month-long interfaith call for comprehensive climate change and clean energy legislation, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, today sent a letter of support to the United States Senate. The Reform Jewish Movement is one of many faith communities urging the Senate to pass comprehensive and equitable legislation that guards our planet and its inhabitants, especially the most vulnerable, from the effects of environmental degradation. Rabbi Sapersteins letter highlights the need to act urgently and ensure that legislation is guided by principles of sustainability, stewardship, and social justice. Full text of the letter follows.

Dear Senator,


On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis, I urge you to make passage of comprehensive climate and energy legislation a priority this year.


This month we join with a diverse faith-based coalition urging Congress to work swiftly to enact legislation that will drastically reduce global warming pollution and ensure that all people are protected from the impacts of climate change. It is past time for the Senate to address this environmental, economic, public health, and security challenge, and make our nation a global environmental and clean energy leader.


Comprehensive climate legislation should be rooted in the principles of stewardship, sustainability, and social justice, protecting both Gods creation and all people, especially those most vulnerable to the effects of both climate change and new energy policies. First and foremost, climate legislation must set ambitious, science-based targets for reducing global warming pollution and rapidly increasing clean energy production. To honor our call from the Book of Genesis "to till and to tend" our world, we call for climate legislation that responds to the scientific consensus that warming greater than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could be catastrophic for our planet and for millions of people worldwide.


Meeting this goal requires that the government maintain the ability to enforce existing legislation, and that we avoid short-sighted and unsustainable energy alternatives. We are discouraged by the efforts of some in the Senate to attack our most effective environmental laws and agencies and urge you to oppose any attempts, either through comprehensive climate legislation or stand-alone bills, to obstruct or delay the EPA in acting to protect human and ecological health by regulating global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act.


Further, our community strongly opposes expanding oil and natural gas drilling off our nations shores, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and in other ecologically sensitive areas. Simply transitioning to domestic fossil fuel sources is a short-sighted non-solution that will not yield the resources to meet long-term energy needs, spur sustained economic growth, or ensure the environmental protection that will derive from moving to a truly clean and sustainable energy economy.


Protecting those living in poverty must also be a central principle of climate legislation. In addition to aid for consumers in the U.S., climate legislation must provide adaptation assistance for the worlds most vulnerable communities in developing nations who are already facing climate change impacts that threaten food security and economic development. Several public and private studies estimate that at least $25 billion per year will be needed to meet this need. As the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases and a global economic leader, our nation has a commensurate responsibility to help the poorest people adapt to climate change. This is not only a moral issue but a prerequisite to achieving an international climate agreement, without which the global community will be unable to meet the climate challenge.


We are inspired by our tradition to fight for a climate and energy future that protects our earth and all of its inhabitants. Our sages remind us to "Take care, lest you spoil and destroy my world, because if you do, there is no one after you to make it right again" (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13). We are also taught that "If all the sufferings and pain in the world were gathered on one side of the scale, and poverty was on the other side, poverty would outweigh them all" (Exodus Rabbah 31:14). As people of faith, we urge you to join us in working toward a healthier and safer environment and seeking justice for those most in need through climate and energy legislation that safeguards our planet and creates sustainable pathways to prosperity for all people.


This year, you have an historic opportunity to put our nation on the course to a more sustainable and equitable energy and environmental future, and we applaud those who are working to move climate legislation forward. At this critical moment, the Reform Jewish community urges you to protect our environment and all of its inhabitants by working toward passage of strong, equitable, comprehensive climate legislation in 2010.




Rabbi David Saperstein

Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism