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INTERFAITH CLIMATE CHANGE CAMPAIGN EXTENDS TO 18 STATES

March 30, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – An interfaith movement to educate and act on global warming – including work to support the Kyoto Protocol and enlist local congregations in energy conservation – now reaches into 18 states.

The Interfaith Climate Change Campaign is designed to help people of faith see global warming as a religious issue and to encourage individuals, congregations and governments to do something about it.

The National Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice Working Group, consisting of Protestant and Orthodox communions, is partnering with Catholics, evangelicals and Jews in this strategy that was kicked off in August 1998 to organize faith-based support for initiatives on climate change.

"The momentum to proclaim global warming a religious issue has caught on," said the Rev. Richard Killmer, Environmental Justice Director for the National Council of Churches. "People are realizing this is not a dry or irrelevant policy issue. It is about what we will give to our children and grandchildren. It is also about practicing life and about justice for the most vulnerable all over the world."

An initial campaign was tested in Ohio in 1998 including educational, lifestyle, public policy and media strategies. In 1999, with the Ohio campaign as a model, the effort was expanded to four additional states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Iowa.

With campaigns still ongoing in those five states, 11 new states began organizing around the climate change issue early in 2000: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin. Early in 2001, Colorado and Texas joined them.

The 18-state initiative is being carried out through state ecumenical agencies. In each state, local religious leaders form an interfaith planning committee, hold a two-day training event, develop a Religious Leaders Statement and implement an ongoing climate change campaign. The campaign, after the training events, involves educating in congregations and judicatories, enabling congregations to use less energy, educating the public through the media, and organizing visits with elected officials, including U.S. senators.

Here are a few examples of activities/achievements of state campaigns:

OHIO: "Members of the Ohio Interfaith Global Warming Campaign, organized through the Ohio Council of Churches (based in Columbus, Ohio), testified in the Ohio State legislature against a bill calling upon members of the U.S. Congress from Ohio to vote against the proposed Kyoto Protocol of the Framework Convention on Climate Change – a treaty ratified by 160 nations including the U.S. Senate," Killmer said. "Much to the surprise of legislators, these people of faith ended up being the strongest voice in support of Kyoto."

MICHIGAN: In Michigan, the interfaith campaign has offered energy efficiency seminars for members of the faith community, partnered with the Michigan Environmental Council and the World Wildlife Fund and placed five regional coordinators throughout the state. "Though Michigan is a big and challenging state, we’re being noticed more," said Kim Winchell, of Freeland, Mich., coordinator of the Michigan campaign and an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America layperson. "We will sit down face-to-face with our legislators to try to convince them that this is a time for bold action on the issue," Ms. Winchell said. "Also, it’s an ongoing challenge to be heard by all corners of the religious community in Michigan, but those of us involved in this work plan to keep up a steady, and growing, drumbeat, until we are heard."

WEST VIRGINIA: "Since our training event in December, 1999, we have had good success in getting congregations to do a Bible study on the issue and to become ‘energy stewardship congregations,’" said Marcia Leitch, from Talcott, W.Va., a Presbyterian educator who coordinates the West Virginia Interfaith Global Warming Campaign. Members of the campaign met with U.S. Representative Robert Wise and with Senator Bird’s state staff person in Charleston, W.Va., and West Virginia religious leaders have done letter writing campaigns around significant issues in the state.

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