Last month, Pope Francis reminded us all that “the Earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.” In his encyclical, the pope laid out the threat that global climate change poses to that inheritance — to the clean air, clean water, and healthy environment that are the foundations of our society. He called on “every person living on this planet” to join together in defense of “our common home.”
President Barack Obama has also spoken to our moral obligation to act on climate. We owe it to our children and to future generations to leave behind a planet that’s vibrant and thriving. And we have a duty as Americans to lead.
The pope’s encyclical is a call to action. The Archdiocese of Chicago has partnered with the EPA’s Energy Star program, as it works to make its operations more sustainable and efficient.
With this step, the Archdiocese of Chicago became the first U.S. archdiocese to commit to benchmarking and tracking its energy, water, and emissions performance. We are already seeing the results in energy savings and carbon footprint impact as creation care is promoted in communities across Lake and Cook counties. The hope is that congregations across the nation will be encouraged to join this effort to promote environmentally important behavior by way of education and education through action.
The archdiocese’s action on climate is just one part of the city-wide movement driving Chicago’s response to the challenge of climate change.
Under the Sustainable Chicago 2015 Action Agenda, the city has made remarkable progress toward an ambitious set of goals for climate action. Through programs such as the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative, buildings all across the city are seeing gains in energy efficiency, and millions of dollars in savings. The Chicago Solar Express project is on track to bring clean, affordable solar power to hundreds of homes and businesses.
That’s exactly the kind of innovation that the EPA hopes to accelerate with its Clean Power Plan, which will be finalized later this summer. By dramatically reducing the carbon pollution from power plants that causes climate change, as well as the soot and smog that come with it, the proposed Clean Power Plan will protect our children from 100,000 asthma attacks, and help the U.S. avoid nearly 2,100 heart attacks — and that’s in 2030 alone.
The Clean Power Plan will also help the United States lead the international charge for climate action, just as Chicago and the archdiocese are leading the charge for action here at home.
The fight against climate change isn’t a sprint — it’s a marathon. But with continued leadership and committed action from the archdiocese, from Chicago, and from congregations and communities across America, we can turn the challenge of climate change into an opportunity to build a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future.
A month ago, Pope Francis asked, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”
We all know the answer, and that’s why we’re working together — faith leaders, public officials and private citizens — to make it a reality.
Blase J. Cupich is archbishop of the Chicago archdiocese, and Gina McCarthy is the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.