If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.
--Lyndon B. Johnson

We're Still In - UNFCCC and COP23

In 1992 Government representatives and non-governmental organizations from around the world met at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to discuss changes in the worldwide climate system.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted by this conference.  It’s the first international treaty to acknowledge the adverse effects of changes in the earth’s climate.  The treaty’s stated objective isstabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”    

The UNFCCC treaty has been ratified by 197 countries, including the United States.  

A Conference of the Parties (COP) who ratified the treaty is held annually.  The 23rd COP will meet November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany.  The COP23 presidency resides with the country of Fiji.  They are the first Small Island Developing State to hold the COP presidency.  The Fijian Prime Minister recently presented Fiji’s vision for COP23.  

Each COP has numerous side events with opportunities for non-governmental organizations to participate.  TXIPL is making plans to attend COP23 and bring its activities to you.  You can prepare for COP23 by viewing TXIPL’s updates from last year’s COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco.  Look for TXIPL's COP23 rolling blog on the web as we get closer to November.  Until then, follow us on Facebook for our latest news on COP23.      

Trees Are Cool

August 16, 2017 Legislature Update:  ​The Texas Legislature closed its special session on August 15th.  Neither SB 14 nor HB 70 passed.  These bills would have limited the authority of municipalities to regulate the removal of trees and vegetation.  Texas Interfaith Power & Light opposed both bills. 

TXIPL also was watching HB 7.  This bill required municipalities to allow tree planting credit in lieu of mitigation fees for tree removal.  The Senate amended HB 7 in ways that limited the authority of municipalities to regulate tree removal and restricted the value of mitigation fees.  However, these amendments were not accepted by the House.   In the end, the Senate removed the amendments before passing the final bill.  The final version of HB 7 has been sent to the Governor for signature.  Governor Abbott vetoed a similar regular session bill, because he thought it should further restrict the authority of municipalities to regulate tree removal.  TXIPL will be watching to see if Governor Abbott signs HB 7.  

Thank you to Texas Impact and all of Texas Impact's members who worked to influence this legislation.  You spoke loudly for the importance of trees and vegetation in our communities.  They mitigate heat islands, air pollution, and the impacts of climate change.  By doing so, they are important to our public health.  

August 4, 2017 Legislature Update:​  HB 70 is still pending in committee.   Continue to contact the committee members, if you want to influence the bill's outcome.  

July 25, 2017 Legislature Update:  HB 70 is being heard by the Urban Affairs Committee today.  SB 14 was heard and amended by the Business and Commerce Committee this past Saturday.  Texas Impact's Weekly Witness on July 24th discussed the status of these bills and actions you can take to influence them.  Texas Impact also is partnering with Defend Texas Trees to oppose the bills.   

Many people enjoy the beauty that trees and vegetation bring to our communities, but their value to us extends far beyond aesthetics.  Trees and vegetation are our allies in battling heat islands and air pollution.  

Sunlight falling on dry pavement and buildings heats these surfaces to temperatures hotter than the air temperature.   The surfaces then release the heat into the air overnight and limit night-time cooling.  After several days, the cumulative effect of this cycle is a heat island, where we live, work, and go to school.  A heat island can be several degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding rural area.  

The negative effects of heat islands include increased energy usage for cooling and increased production of air pollutants and ground-level ozone.  Most significantly, heat islands cause an increase in heat-related illnesses and deaths.  These negative effects impact vulnerable populations the most:  the homeless; children and the elderly; those with health conditions; and those who do not have the resources to pay the increased cost of cooling their home.  Climate change may intensify urban heat islands and increase their negative impacts.

Trees and vegetation combat heat islands by intercepting sunlight and limiting the heating of pavement and buildings.  Moisture released from plants through evapotranspiration helps to cool the air.  Plants also absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air.  The Dallas Urban Heat Island report identifies the use of trees and vegetation as an effective mitigation strategy for the city's heat island.  Austin’s guide to heat island mitigation relies on research that shows trees and vegetation are effective in combating heat island effects.   A 2016 Urban Heat Management Study for Louisville, Kentucky specifically looked at vulnerable populations, resulting in one of its key conclusions being to prioritize tree planting and other vegetative strategies in residential zones.  

Since trees and vegetation are important to the well-being of communities, many cities have adopted ordinances, regulations, permits, and requirements specific to trees and vegetation in their region of Texas.  Bills related to these types of local ordinances, rules, and regulations have been introduced in the special session of the 85th Texas Legislature.  Texas Impact is following these bills and recently talked about them at their July 17th Weekly Witness Special Session Preview.  Contact Katrina for more information.

Town Hall Meeting Time

Sometimes Washington D.C. seems so far away that our voices can’t heard by our legislators.  It’s different in August.  The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are on recess, and our legislators are right here at home with us in Texas.  Now is our chance to talk with them in person and to have our voices heard. 

The Town Hall Project shows over two dozen town hall meetings scheduled by representatives in Texas this month.  If you’re not sure who your representative is, enter your zip code at this link to find out.  It also will give you a link to your representative’s webpage, where you can find a local phone number and office address.  You may want to schedule a personal meeting with your representative, if they haven’t scheduled a town hall meeting.    

Interfaith Power & Light’s Town Hall Toolkit will help you prepare to meet with your representative. The toolkit provides a means to research climate issues being considered by the House.  It also gives suggestions for participating in a town hall meeting and talking with your representative.  Interfaith Power & Light draws from the wisdom of diverse faith traditions and the findings of scientific research to develop positions on climate issues. The toolkit contains links to these positions, as well as links to current actions, such as speaking in opposition to the proposed defunding of EPA’s Energy Star programBeing informed will help you be an effective advocate on climate issues.    

Good luck, and go advocate!

We're Still In - Act

You’ve joined with others to say, “We’re Still In” the Paris Climate Agreement, and have committed to reducing your carbon emissions.   Now what?

Your carbon footprint is the sum of all the carbon-containing gases emitted by your daily activities.  Under the Paris Climate Agreement, each country submitted its own target for greenhouse gas emissions. The United States said it would try to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28%, based on emissions levels in year 2005.  Show the world that "We're Still In" by reducing your own carbon footprint this amount and by working with your faith community to reduce its carbon footprint.   Here are some resources to help you.

Cool Congregations    Interfaith Power & Light's Cool Congregations program helps faith communities reduce their carbon footprint.

Cooler-Smarter Top Ten List    The Union of Concerned Scientists describes ten things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

Sustainable Living Tips    The Global Stewards organization takes carbon footprint reduction a step further, with guidance on changing your lifestyle to one that is environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral.     

Climate Kids    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Climate Kids program provides educational activities and helps kids reduce their carbon footprint.   

Carbon Footprint Calculator    The University of California at Berkeley provides a carbon footprint calculator, with suggestions for carbon reduction actions that are specific to your household's carbon emission sources.   

We’re Still In – Advocate

The mayors of several Texas cities have joined government, university, and business leaders across the United States in telling the world that their community is still in the Paris Climate Agreement.  The list of communities saying “We’re Still In” is growing daily.   Go to www.wearestillin.com and see if your community has made the commitment to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a clean energy economy.  If your community isn’t listed, contact your council member, mayor, or other leader and tell them you want your community to say, “We’re Still In.”  

We're Still In - Commit

President Trump has announced that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, but Texas Interfaith Power & Light members are “Still In.”  For people of faith, it’s a moral imperative to care for creation and to sustain it for future generations.  The goals of the Paris Climate Agreement are achievable if individuals, communities, businesses, and institutions commit to reducing their carbon emissions.  Show your commitment by signing the pledge at http://www.interfaithpowerandlight.org/were-still-in-paris/

Water Justice: A Global Event

Texas Impact's Sam Brannon is among the presenters at the Trinity Institute 2017 Water Justice Conference to commemorate World Water Day. The event will be held on March 22-24, 2017, live in New York City and webcast around the world.

World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners around the world.  The day focuses on taking action to tackle the global water crisis.  Action is needed now more than ever, as climate change’s effects on the global water cycle threaten to increase the water crisis.  With a sharp focus on the need for water justice initiatives in areas of access, droughts, pollution, rising tides, and flooding, Trinity Institute aims to offer actionable guidance for individuals, congregations, and the larger faith community surrounding these issues. 

To commemorate World Water Day, faith communities worldwide will lift their voices to draw attention to our obligation to care for God’s sustaining gift of water in all its forms.  In addition to Texas Impact's Sam Brannon, environmentalists and theologians who will speak at the conference include Barbara BoxerChristiana Zenner PeppardWinston HalapuaThabo MakgobaKatharine HayhoeMaude BarlowDavid ToomeyKim Stanley Robinson, and others.

Watch their presentations here.  

Climate Change - It's About the Kids!

On Saturday, February 25, 2017, join the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for a discussion about environmental stewardship, climate change and actions that Christians can take to care for the earth.

This conversation will examine theological and biblical mandates to care for the earth with a focus on climate change. Participants will discuss steps governments and individuals can take to preserve and protect the planet for the good of their children and grandchildren.

The event will feature a keynote address by Dr. Barbara Rossing, New Testament professor, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago; action steps from Texas Impact’s Bee Moorhead and Rev. Sam Brannon; and presentations by several other outstanding speakers.

The event is $13 in advance and $20 at the door. Childcare will be provided for attendees: Ages 0-6 free, ages 7-12 $10 each to cover lunch.

Find more information and RSVP here.

TXIPL Participates in U.S. Climate Action Network Press Conference

In the wake of the U.S. election results in November 2016, Americans attending the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change started getting a lot of questions from their global colleagues.

What do we think of the president-elect?”  

What positions will he take on (name your issue)?”  

Who will he appoint to be in his Cabinet?”  

But mostly—since we are here at a conference focused on international cooperation on dealing with our shared planetary climate crisis—the question was, “What does the election mean for U.S. action on climate change?

After fielding these swirling questions for a full day, the U.S. Climate Action Network (USCAN) decided to dedicate their daily press conference on November 10th to the topic, and they asked the U.S. faith delegation to provide religious leaders to speak.  Interfaith speakers at the press conference included: The Right Reverend Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California; Rev. Jenny Phillips, Minister for Environmental Stewardship and Advocacy for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church; Imaad Khan, Policy Analyst, Texas Interfaith Power & Light; and Texas Interfaith Center Associate Director, Yaira Robinson, representing the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL).

Yaira said, in part:

"Jews have too often experienced broken dreams, lost lives, and fractured community. We know that climate change will cause more stress, suffering, and migration—and already today, we see too many people all around the world experiencing loss and brokenness, too many having to leave home and seek welcome in foreign lands. 

Where there is brokenness, we are called to mend. This is tikkun olam: connecting, healing, mending. As Jews, we dedicate ourselves to building climate resilience in our local communities; to advocating for strong action on climate mitigation and adaptation at the state, regional, and national levels; and to being responsible global citizens through strong support for the Paris Agreement."

Read Yaira's full statement here.

Imaad said, in part:

"Texas is home to some of the worst climate disasters in the United States and it’s critically important that rural communities, inner city communities, impoverished cities along the border, are connected to civil society and faith leaders in the broader climate movement.  

For these vulnerable communities, local congregations are often a primary convenor, and we are working all over our state to resource and connect local congregations. The faith community has and will continue to assert that the voices of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change must also be central in shaping our climate solutions."  

Read Imaad's full statement here.

Watch the full press conference on YouTube.

Cathedral of Hope Religion and Environmentalism Forum, April 23, 2016

On Saturday, April 23, the Cathedral of Hope will host a forum on Religion and Environmentalism. From Cathedral of Hope: "We will explore questions such as: What is the role of organized religion in protecting the planet? What people of faith have to say about this critical subject? What is our role as Christians? What can we do now?"

Panelists include: 

Rev. Samuel D Brannon | Outreach & Engagement Specialist, Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy

Rev. Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas | Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Hope

Green Dallas | Dallas Zero Waste Division

Dr. Melanie Harris | Associate Professor of Religion and Environmental Ethics, Texas Christian University

Dan Peeler | Secular Order of St. Francis and St. Clare, Cathedral of Hope

The event is free and open to the public. Learn more and RSVP here.