Climate Justice is the work we do to confront the climate crisis. While Washington State is a small proportion of the world population and economy, there are actions we can take to show leadership in solving the climate crisis. Some of the major issues we confront are listed in the menu item “Our Work.” Recent changes in the state’s action on climate can be seen in the news items posted below. Climate change affects all of us, but its consequences are not distributed equally. Climate impacts exacerbate existing inequities in society, whether they are related to poverty, gender, race or ethnicity, ability, or other factors. The slow-onset impacts of climate change are displacing communities and having severe impacts on human rights — the right to health, food security, water and sanitation, life, religious expression, and culture, among others.
Often, grassroots, frontline communities have the best and most appropriate solutions to these challenges. At the same time, these communities receive the smallest share of funding and are sidelined by state and international decision makers.
Issue Lead: William McPherson, University Unitarian, Seattle, WA
Vision: Humanity is at an inflection point for survival. We in the Unitarian-Universalist community have a duty to raise our voices for the moral commitment to human survival. We cannot continue our current patterns of consumption and production with reliance on fossil fuels for energy. Communities of color and low-income populations are disproportionally affected by the consequences of climate change. Richer communities and nations can, for the time being, avoid some of the more severe consequences but all will be severely impacted in the long run. Recognition of our common humanity is a necessary premise to all of our actions.
Mission: We will continue to examine the cultural assumptions and social acceptance of reliance on fossil fuels. We will question the need for unregulated growth of energy systems based on coal, oil and natural gas. We will challenge the expansion of fossil fuel facilities, particularly those that disproportionately affect communities of color and tribal lands. We will demand a price on carbon commensurate with the impact it has on current and future generations. We will strive to make sure that this price does not impact low-income communities disproportionately. We will question the expansion of economic systems that depend on fossil-fueled growth regardless of its impact on the environment. We will conduct our living on a basis of reduction of consumption, particularly growth based on expansion of fossil-fuel resources and inefficient agricultural practices contributing to accelerating climate disruption.
“The person who harms others by burning fossil fuels cannot even potentially encounter his victims, because they do not yet exist. Living in the here and now, he reaps all the benefits from the combustion but few of the injuries, which will be suffered by people who are not around and cannot voice their opposition.” ~Andrea Malm
Climate change is a worldwide, long-term problem. One country, much less one state, cannot do enough to solve the climate dilemma. It requires global action, and every one of the members of the United Nations has signed on to the Paris Agreement. Only one, the U.S., has reneged on its commitment.
We in Washington State are part of a group of 17 states and numerous cities, called the Alliance for Climate Action, that pledged to support the Paris Agreement. The Alliance keeps our participation in the Paris Agreement alive and meaningful even though the federal government has abandoned its responsibilities.
Because Washington State’s participation is still significant we will continue to work toward better climate policies in the state. At present, under State Law RCW 70.235, the state is committed to 25% reduction of carbon emissions in 2035 and 50% reduction in 2050. We must work to strengthen this commitment, to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement, which requires 100% reduction to “zero net” emissions by 2050. It is also important to strengthen this commitment because proposed carbon taxes or carbon reductions are indexed to this law.
As Unitarian-Universalists, we are dedicated to carry out the principle of “Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence of Which We Are a Part.” Since we are now at a point in human history when our policies on climate and other environmental issues are leading to the “sixth great extinction,” we must be mindful of how our policies and actions affect the entire natural world. We must commit ourselves to the survival of humanity, which is threatened by climate change.