The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as:
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys:
- The same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and
- Equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
The UUA defines environmental justice as:
UUA 1994 General Resolution: Environmental Justice
The Unitarian-Universalist Association is committed to environmental justice. In 1994, UUA adopted the following resolution:
BECAUSE we affirm justice and compassion in human relations, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and respect for the interdependent web of all existence; and
BECAUSE we share the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and
WHEREAS waste and pollution, overconsumption by the world’s affluent few, and the pressures caused by poverty and burgeoning populations are inflicting harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment, and have endangered the future we wish for both humanity and the rest of nature;
WHEREAS the poor, the powerless, the landless, and the disinherited are often compelled to carry the major burdens of waste and pollution without representation in planning and decision-making processes;
WHEREAS the concept of environmental justice links the principles of liberal religion with the values of ecological awareness and racial and class justice;
WHEREAS the Unitarian Universalist Association has adopted separate resolutions on specific economic, political, and environmental issues, it also realizes that environmental justice requires an integrated, holistic approach; and
WHEREAS the Union of Concerned Scientists, the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit (1991), the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992), and other assemblies and organizations are seeking to move environmental justice higher on the public policy agenda;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Unitarian Universalist Association shall act and urge its affiliates, member societies, and individual Unitarian Universalists to:
- promote programs for social, economic, and political empowerment so that all people may join together in one struggle for peace, justice, and sustainable development;
- support the development of democratic and ecologically responsible community organizations, labor unions, and business cooperatives;
- develop religious education and community action programs honoring cultural and religious diversity and connecting environmental issues to other social justice concerns;
- set time aside for seasonal celebrations to honor our interdependence and to deepen our commitment to natural and cultural diversity; and
- work with the Unitarian Universalist Seventh Principle Project, the Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, and others to implement the recommendations of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Unitarian Universalist Association shall act and encourage its affiliates, member societies, and individual Unitarian Universalists to bear witness to the need for environmental justice by reducing their consumption of the earth’s resources, generating as little waste as possible, recycling, and making a commitment as producers, investors, and consumers to living in an ecologically balanced and responsible manner.
COP27: Stop Excluding Military Pollution from Climate AgreementsApproved by members of the Board on October 14, 2022. The Board of JUUstice Washington voted to add their name to the petition put forward by WorldBeyondWar.org to go to COP27 taking place in Egypt November 6-18th.
"As a result of final-hour demands made by the U.S. government during negotiation of the 1997 Kyoto treaty, military greenhouse gas emissions were exempted from climate negotiations. That tradition has continued.
The 2015 Paris Agreement left cutting military greenhouse gas emissions to the discretion of individual nations.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, obliges signatories to publish annual greenhouse gas emissions, but military emissions reporting is voluntary and often not included.
NATO has acknowledged the problem but not created any specific requirements to address it.
There is no reasonable basis for this gaping loophole. War and war preparations are major greenhouse gas emitters. All greenhouse gas emissions need to be included in mandatory greenhouse gas emission reduction standards. There must be no more exception for military pollution.
We ask COP27 to set strict greenhouse gas emissions limits that make no exception for militarism, include transparent reporting requirements and independent verification, and do not rely on schemes to “offset” emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from a country’s overseas military bases must be fully reported and charged to that country, not the country where the base is located."We encourage our UU congregations, allies and partners to consider signing on as well. For those of you who attended GA, an Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) on this very topic was proposed: "Code Red for Humanity Protect the Livable Planet We Love -Addressing the Climate Impacts of Military Emissions.” Although it did not receive enough delegate votes to make the top 3, it's still an important issue for UUs to be engaged in.
Watch this video of a recent massive mobilization call to alert allies and friends from coast to coast that Wet’suwet’en people need their help to Stop The Drilling under their sacred headwaters, Wedzin Kwa. Attendees will hear from Sleydo’, Chief Na’Moks, and Chief Woos about what’s happening right now on the Yintah. You’ll hear about the violence, surveillance and intimidation that is escalating on Wet’suwet’en territory, and what they can do to help stop the drilling and call off the RCMP. https://youtu.be/XBMji4358vI
On December 19, 2021, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that he would not support the Build Back Better bill (BBBB), which contained a number of climate actions as well as social programs. The Biden Administration has worked with Senator Manchin and other legislators on compromises to make it possible to pass BBBB to no avail. As one of the Board Members of the UU Ministry for Earth, Doris Manchin, stated, "Joe Manchin announced that he will not support Build Back Better. Which only means that STRENGTHEN LOCAL CLIMATE COMMITMENTS (the work of cities and states and industry / sectors)" is even more important. If you are not already involved, please sign up here.
The 27th annual Conference of Parties (COP27) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt on November 6 – 18, 2022. The agenda and numerous other documents for the COP are available here. The main issues of COP27 were (1) member parties’ emissions reductions and (2) loss and damage. A summary of the COP by Earth Negotiations Bulletin with some of the significant decisions highlighted is here. "Loss and damage" involves the costs to member parties such as Pakistan of climate events (e.g., flooding) that are triggered by the rise of emissions from other member parties such as the U.S. and Europe. Many small island states, such as Tonga and Tuvalu, are also pushing this issue because of sea level rise. Some European countries (e.g., France and Germany), the US and the EU have pledged to fund reparations for loss and damage. There will be pressure on the US to increase funding for reparations and this could become an issue in Congress, as described here. With Republican control of the House, it will require considerable pressure to get the funding. But before January, 2023, Democrats will retain control during a lame duck session and it may be possible to get Congress to support, for example, funding the US Fair Share of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). US funding on reparations will not come up in the immediate future because the loss and damage fund is not established - that will be left to a 24-member committee to report to COP28 in Dubai. The 2015 Paris Agreement set up a methodology for member parties to declare their annual emissions and announce new (lower) targets for future years. These “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) are reviewed every five years; they were reviewed in Glasgow in 2021 (the 2020 COP was cancelled due to the pandemic). Many, including the US, EU and China announced new targets for 2030; the US NDC for 2030 is 52% below 2005 levels and many other parties also pledged a 50%+ reduction. This is in line with the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that keeping temperature rises below 2C will require halving emissions by 2030. COP27 was an opportunity to determine if parties are keeping to their commitments and are on track to lower emissions this fast. A number of parties complained at the COP that the world is not on track and urged more action. The EU in particular urged that all parties including developing countries increase ambition and hinted that financing, e.g. for loss and damage, might be contingent on all parties stepping up reductions. Only if the vast majority of parties commit to at least 50% reductions by 2030 can the breach of temperature limits be avoided. One issue that continually arises at the COPs is fossil fuel production. In Glasgow, COP26 introduced the text "phase down of unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies" after fierce debate about what that means. Many parties wanted text to read "phase out" of all fossil fuels but Saudi Arabia and other parties vetoed that. The term "unabated" was used to allow parties to claim that they were offsetting coal production with carbon capture and storage. The term “inefficient” was added to allow parties to claim that they were using sound financial means of funding fossil fuel production. These terms are in the COP27 decision but are likely to be contentious is future COPs. NOTES
- Washington State is not directly a party to the climate change agreement, but we are a member of America is All In, an organization that represents states, cities and private organizations at COPs.
- At the COP26 in 2021, a number of side agreements were made among governments, businesses and civil society. Agreements were made on coal, methane, fossil fuel subsidies, oil and gas production, deforestation and finance. Since the U.S. did not join all of them, you can take action using the information here.
The Environmental Priorities Coalition, which includes environmental groups such as the Washington Environmental Council and the Sierra Club, and faith groups such as Faith Action Network, met recently to set priorities. A tentative list of 2023 priorities include salmon recovery, housing affordability and density, recycling, water, forests and land use. There are still issues pending from the 2022 session. The following is a list of top priorities for 2022, that may recur as bills in 2023:
Salmon Recovery (SB 5665)-- From the coast to Puget Sound to the Snake River, bold action to recover endangered salmon populations across the state.
Unfortunately, this bill is dead for the 2022 session because of landowner opposition. It may be revised and reintroduced at the 2023 session.
Fighting Sprawl to Protect Climate (HB 1099 and SB 5042) -- Futurewise-led Washington Can’t Wait campaign to pass two bills that will revise the Growth Management Act to better plan for climate and close development loopholes that exacerbate urban sprawl. SB 5042 has passed both the Senate and House and was signed by the governor but 1099 has not been forwarded to the Governor for signature. It will be reintroduced in 2023.
Clean Buildings (HB 1767 and SB5666) -- Buildings are WA’s fastest growing source of climate pollution. Action is planned to expand the availability of incentives for utility customers to switch from fossil fuels to clean electric appliances. Both bills failed to pass and may be reintroduced.
In addition, the following bill failed in 2022 but could be 2023 priorities:
Housing Equity and Proximity to Transit (HB 1782) – create additional middle housing near transit and in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing.
Hearings: January 18, 2022: House Committee on Local Government: Hearing Notes Here
Senate Committee on Housing & Local Government has approved the Senate companion bill SB 5670, but both bills missed the March 4 cutoff and are dead for the 2022 session but could be reintroduced in 2023.
The UUJEC is, of course, very interested in democracy. We need more of it in our own operations. Participating in a task force that conducts our work is a good way for you to promote justice in the denomination and in the world. Please, examine this task force list to decide where you can make your best impact on the world. When you find one (or two), click on the adjacent survey monkey link. Ehttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9CSTZM3ach link opens an eight-question survey that asks when and how you can meet with other interested members. Program Task Forces:
Health Care Leader: Judy Deutch https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9CSTZM3The Health Care Task Force works for health equity. We're concerned about access to health care and the quality of health care. This task force works with the UUA to implement the Action of Immediate Witness, COVID-19 Pandemic: Justice, Healing, Courage. As part of this program, we support Medicare for All and congregation-based organizing for personal and social wellness.
Green New Deal Leader: Lucy Hitchcock https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9YZVWSPThe Green New Deal task force explores and educates on the natural, industrial, social, political and economic causes and consequences of climate change and the actions of prevention and restoration in which we can engage. The GND task force sponsors a webinar once a month, assembles resources on our web pages, and invites participation in our work and community.
Reparations for Racism Leader: Carl McCargo https://www.
Housing Justice Leader: Sally Gellert https://www.
The Lakota People’s Law Project has put out a call to action to advocate against HR1374, the “Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2021” – a bill that has already passed in the House and is heading to the Senate. This bill would worsen the already dangerous and complex dynamics of state-backed and corporate-funded violence against and criminalization of water protectors.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere reached 419 parts per million in May. These are the highest carbon dioxide levels in over four million years.
The last time that the atmosphere held comparable levels of CO2 was during the Pliocene period, when the Earth looked completely different from what it does today. Sea levels were 78 feet higher, temperatures were 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and large forests covered parts of the Arctic tundra.
What do these record CO2 emissions mean for climate change? The atmosphere acts as a heat-trapping blanket. Greenhouse gases, like CO2, keep temperatures on Earth comfortable for human survival.
Read more here.
Governor Inslee signed several of the big environmental bills of the 2021 session on Monday, May 18 in Seattle at various locations. Bills included SB 5126 (the Climate Commitment Act), HB 1091 (Clean Fuels); and SB 5141 (HEAL Act). He vetoed provisions in 5126 and 1091 that would have made them contingent on passing a 5 cent per gallon gas tax.
The legislature passed HB 1287, the zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) bill, after it was amended to “establish a goal that all publicly and privately owned passenger and light duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later sold, purchased, or registered in Washington state be electric vehicles, contingent upon vehicle participation in a new road usage charge or equivalent tax or fee policy.” Note that is a “goal,” not a mandate, and it is contingent on a new road usage charge for electric vehicles (to fund transportation like the gas tax does). Because of this contingency, Governor Inslee vetoed provisions of the bill referring to the 2030 goal. Other provisions remain intact, including some that require the state to plan for increases in electric vehicle chargers.
Netse Mot: Support Lummi Nation and Xw’ullemy (the Salish Sea)
2nd Call for Support: Bring Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut Home!
Netse Mot 2021-Call to bring Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut Home2021 will focus on the return of Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) to the Pacific Northwest from Miami Seaquarim in Florida. In the 1970s Southern Resident Orca youth were forcibly and violently taken from their pods and shipped out to aquariums and parks all over the world. Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) was taken to Miami Seaquarium where she is the last surviving Orca youth taken. Lummi Nation has been trying for decades now to have her returned but Miami Seaquarim is refusing to release her. In 2019, two Lummi women, Squil-le-he-le and Mah Tahs working with Earth Law Center, invoked the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and announced their intent to sue Miami Seaquarium if the Seaquarium. To date (April 2021), Miami Seaquarim is still refusing to release Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut. Squil-le-he-le and Mah Tahs are calling upon us to respond as well.
- For individuals, they are asking that we sign the petition established by Earth Law Center that is collecting signatures to go to Miami Seaquarim and its parent and affiliates—Palace Entertainment and Parques Reunidos Servicios Centrales SA.
- For groups and organizations, they are asking that we sign a request to Governor's Inslee (WA) and Brown (OR) and BC Premier John Horgan to sign a proclamation to support the efforts to bring her home. Please sign by 24 May 2021. We'd like to present it to the Governors in June during Orca Action Month.
- We are also being asked to reach out to other Indigenous connections we may have and invite them to sign the Indigenous Statement of Solidarity. The request also includes a video of ceremonies in solidarity. If you have connections with an Indigenous group, please ask them to contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JUUstice WA has not made the Climate Commitment Act a priority because there is some opposition from frontline communities on equity issues (see the detailed hearings report, below). Some members have asked about the bill, so it is described here. It passed the legislature with amendments to meet some of the objections of frontline communities. The “Cap and Invest” program directs Department of Ecology to set a cap on emissions and set rules for compliance. Allowances are used to invest in clean energy projects. By 2022 Ecology must set caps and rules for allowances. Reductions begin in 2023 and are made more stringent during each period. The caps are set on a sliding scale according RCW 70.235 as follows:
- By 2030, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 45 percent below 1990 levels,
- By 2040, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 70 percent below 1990 levels,
- By 2050, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 95 percent below 1990 levels,
For the past few weeks, UU Ministry for Earth and Elders Climate Action have been busy with the UU Project Drawdown Initiative 2021. UU DD 21 mobilizes teams or individuals to earn points for taking a variety of actions for climate and environmental justice. You can SIGN UP and take part in the challenge at any time until June, when the collective efforts will be compiled in a video to be shared and celebrated at UUA General Assembly. Get inspired with these highlights of progress so far.
Watch it by clicking here: SolutionaryRail.org/
(Move the scroll bar to start at the 6 minute mark to bypass the initial tech set up delay.)
Washington state has made significant commitments to and investments in the protection and recovery of these killer whales, their critical Salish Sea habitat, and their food web, which hinges on the availability of Chinook salmon. The terminal will threaten the progress made to date on recommendations of the Governor’s Orca Task Force and on state legislation that has ensued from its deliberations. Even ignoring the added risks of oil spills and ship strikes, there would still be a major increase in underwater noise levels from these massive container ships that will further limit the orcas’ ability to echolocate, communicate and hunt.
Over 40 organizations and nearly 100,000* individuals have asked Governor Inslee to oppose the Roberts Bank terminal project, signing a petition addressed to him. And they have asked that if the project is approved in spite of their strong objections, he should insist that robust risk-mitigation measures — such as an emergency tug strategically located along the vessels’ path — be required to protect the orcas, salmon and Washington state environment.
Read more here.
As currently planned, Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) would be built in the sub-tidal waters of the Fraser River delta adjacent to the Westshore coal terminal, on 437 acres of critical habitat for salmon and migratory birds. Once in existence, it would significantly increase the Port’s capacity for larger container ships and also induce more container-ship traffic through the trans-boundary waters of the Salish Sea — by up to 520 transits per year.
The massive “Mega-Max” container ships that could call on this terminal typically carry 18 to 24 thousand containers. They can also carry much larger amounts of propulsion fuels, in some cases over 4 million gallons worth, which could dramatically increase the extent of an oil spill from a container-ship collision or grounding.
Read more here.
The maps, commissioned as part of InvestigateWest's yearlong reporting project, Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia, span Washington and Oregon and provide digital windows into vulnerabilities that are likely to worsen with climate change. Montana-based Headwaters Economicscreated the interactive visualizations using a pair of powerful mapping tools that the community planning firm launched last year.
The maps created for this project are an example of tools undegoing growing use in Cascadia, where equity advocates, academic researchers and governments are teaming up to create new data-driven methods to identify and address unequal environmental risks. A movement that began several years ago accelerated in 2020 as the skewed death tolls from COVID-19 laid bare systemic social and economic inequalities on both sides of the border, and surging outrage amidst police shootings spurred governments into action.
Read more here.