‘Carbon Covenant’ Communities: Linking Congregations to Address Climate Change
Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) proposes to partner with Alliance for Religions and Conservation to facilitate IPL congregations and people of faith in the U.S. providing direct support to greening projects in communities on the front lines of climate change in the developing world.
Our goal is not merely to support worthy projects, but to do so while building the interfaith and international understanding and respect necessary to address the global crisis of climate change. Our projects will demonstrate concrete, measurable results in a framework of partnership and shared responsibility for stewardship of the Earth.
Problems and Opportunities
Problem 1: Vulnerable communities and indigenous peoples throughout the developing world bear the brunt of climate change, despite contributing least to the problem.
Problem 2: Many denominations struggle with reinvigorating their centuries-old Mission structures to provide direct assistance to rural communities outside of traditional, charity-based relief assistance. There is a need for preventative action to combat emerging threats to communities, and to empower them for long-term success.
Opportunity 1: Congregations and faith communities in developing nations have created their own detailed action plans to improve their environments, sequester emissions, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Opportunity 2: Over 10,000 congregations in the U.S. have joined the Interfaith Power and Light movement, and are working to address global warming by shrinking their carbon footprints, advocating for policy solutions, and offsetting their emissions.
Opportunity 3: IPL and other faith-based advocacy groups are working to push the U.S. to direct significant funding for climate change adaptation, mitigation, clean energy technology sharing, and forest protection. Members of these groups are being educated on the needs of developing nations and the U.S. responsibility in being the world’s largest contributor to the problem.
Opportunity 4: Of IPL’s 10,000 congregations, many are members of a Diocese that has a pre-existing partnership with a developing nation Diocese of the same faith. Because of its established relationship with judicatories around the U.S. and its knowledge of these partnerships, IPL stands uniquely poised to facilitate new ‘Carbon Covenant’ projects within these existing Diocesan structures. Additionally, because of IPL’s interfaith coalition of congregations and judicatories, our network proves that denominations have the capacity to partner across faith lines to promote interfaith dialogue and interfaith solutions. A Jewish congregation in California may choose to partner with a Buddhist project in Cambodia, for example.
Solution: As an alternative to offsets, U.S. congregations and people of faith can support these green projects in developing nations’ efforts, directly reducing emissions, supporting vulnerable communities, and practicing what we preach. Parishes or entire Diocese may establish ‘Carbon Covenant’ relationships with congregations in developing nations, developing relationships and sponsoring projects over multiple years, expanding on the traditional Mission-model from an ‘aid’ focus to an ’empowerment’ focus.
Urgency: Climate change appears to be happening more quickly than many scientists predicted, and its impacts are being felt severely in parts of the world. In order to avoid the worst case climate change scenarios, we need to make large reductions in emissions over the next decade, and all countries will need to participate. Deforestation comprises about 20% of global emissions and is a major component of developing nations emissions. One of the most cost effective, simple ways to reduce emissions is to stop deforestation, which is the focus of these projects.
With the help of ARC’s extensive connections and in depth experience working with faith communities in Africa and the developing world, we have chosen four pilot projects. The four outlined below are our prospective ‘Carbon Covenant’ congregations. Over the next five months, we propose to set up a website telling their stories and describing their projects. We will reach out to other organizations to partner with us who will promote the project and post links on their sites. The website will be launched by September 2009. We aim to raise $75,000 for the pilot project, which will cover carbon metrics, website design, and marketing. The goal would be for this initial investment to eventually leverage much more funding by engaging thousands of individuals and congregations.
The Web Site
Building a user-friendly, interactive website will allow us to tell stories, post pictures, and create more distributed support network for the greening programs. It also builds on our strength, which is our network of congregations and individuals who want to take action on climate change and have become accustomed to interacting with us online. It would also be an obvious link from our existing websites, like Cool Congregations and ShopIPL. We propose to dialogue with existing Christian-based microfinance groups such as Opportunity International, as well as successful web-based sponsorship programs linking individuals from developed and developing nations, such as Kiva.org, and Heiffer.org. With a powerful publicity campaign and multiple partnering organizations, we think this would have the potential to go viral, reaching far beyond our own national database of 40,000 individuals.
‘Carbon Covenant’ Congregations
Identifying congregations or a Diocese to partner with specific projects could offer the opportunity for deeper relationships building and longer-term commitments between faith communities. As mentioned, many parishes in the U.S. already have historic sister relationships with parishes in the developing world, but are looking for ways to revitalize and renew their partnerships. This is especially true at the Diocesan level. For example, the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) already has a program in place called Joining Hands Against Hunger (JH), which partners their US-based Presbyteries with Presbyteries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to encourage a ‘new Mission’ model for faith-based development work. Over the course of many years, these Presbyteries look for new projects to undertake together which would empower pre-existing, organizational relationships for both communities (global North and global South) in communion with each other and their shared value systems.
This program could offer a new project within an existing sister relationship, while also offering the opportunity for “double bottom line” carbon offsets (offsetting emissions while achieving social justice goals). U.S. faith community offset dollars go much further under this model, as they promote equity internationally, while increasing awareness domestically of the environmental degradation and social justice-implications of our destructive and unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels.
Four Pilot Projects Presented by Faith Communities
Kilimanjaro Environmental Conservation Program:
Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCT) in Tanzania- Northern Diocese.
The ELCT Northern Diocese is situated on the slopes of Mountain Kilimanjaro in North Eastern Tanzania. The peak of the mountain- Kibo- is 5,895 metres high and is covered by snow. However, the snow cap is rapidly disappearing. In March 2005, it was reported that the peak was now almost bare for the first time in 11,000 years.
Its loss carries significant climatological and hydrological implications for the local population who depend on water from the ice fields during the dry seasons and monsoon failures. In addition, deforestation and poor land managements have accelerated soil erosion on farming lands. Gullies are everywhere. The streams are a red brown colour as tons of vital topsoil is washed away causing floods, the destruction of crops and food shortages.
The local church is working to encourage intensive tree planting and education on farming methods to conserve the environment and ensure sufficient food production. For example, young people attending confirmation classes have to plant 10 trees before they are confirmed. Women in parishes are leading the campaign for tree planting around churches and schools.
The project is a three-year project that hopes to work through the 152 parishes scatted on the slopes of the mountain to:
-Establish 30 tree nurseries, distribute seedlings and plant nearly 3 million trees to reforest open spaces and water sources and restock wildlife
-Provide education on the environment and conservation
-Promote integrated environmental conservation measures into farming through education and introducing alternative technologies such as organic farming and reducing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
This project will be implemented in co-operation with Kilimanjaro Regional Forest and Agriculture officers and local government leaders.
Cost US $155,400
Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana
This is a project to restore deforested lands. The restoration/afforestation project of degraded lands is a community-based collaboration to regenerate/restore degraded forests as well as establishment of woodlots. The project will last for one year.
Over the years, the forest has witnessed rapid reduction in its cover, with the resultant environmental and socio-economic consequences. There are multiple reasons responsible for this decline.
These factors include:
- Indiscriminate felling of trees for fuel and other domestic uses
- Inappropriate farming practices
- Group and commercial hunting
- Frequent annual bushfires
- Activities of Chain Saw operators
The effects of this environmental decline have manifested in:
- Loss of biodiversity
- Erratic rainfall pattern
- Drying up of streams
- Extreme weather conditions
- Savannization of once forested areas
- Loss of soil fertility
- Worsening poverty levels
- Increasing inability of the area to meet the demands of both wood and animal products.
The specific objectives of the project are:
- To educate and create awareness on the need to conserve the forest resources at least among 60% of the project communities
- To introduce alternative livelihood schemes to 60% of unemployed youth and women
- To encourage the adaptation of energy conservation practices in heating to 60% of women
- To establishÂ woodlots of about 10 acres each in every project community
- To reduce the incidence of bushfire by 50%
- To regenerate about 30% of the forest cover in degraded areas
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (E.P.CHURCH) through its Agenda 21 Sustainable Development Programme will implement this project in collaboration with Specialists from Ghana Wildlife Division (GWD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Forest Services Division (FSD), Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), and Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) atÂ Regional and District levels.
This project will be implemented by the churches’ AGENDA 21 Programme through 4(four) of the church’s agricultural stations in the selected project areas. These agricultural stations are managed by programme officers and other technical staff that also include WID (Women in Development) Officers. Two of the project communities are situated in Northern Ghana, where poverty is endemic and 70% of the population is classified as poor, according to the Ghana Poverty and Growth Strategy Paper of the National Development Planning Commission.
Risks to successful implementation of the project have also been identified. These are wildfires, long droughts/climate variability and untimely release of project funds. A monitoring and evaluation system based on purpose, indicators and verifiers has been drawn-up in the project logical frame.
Highlighted benefits of the project:
To introduce alternative livelihood schemes
- Agenda 21 in conjunction with MOFA/GWD will organize a three day hands on training workshop to provide skills in various alternative livelihood programmes (Snail farming, bee keeping, mushroom farming, grasscutter rearing). A needs assessment will also be conducted in the communities to identify other alternative livelihood schemes.
- Agenda 21 in collaboration with National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) will hold a two-day entrepreneurial workshop on marketing, accounting, records and book keeping.
- Training on micro credit and sourcing for funds will be organized for beneficiaries.
The total assistance needed now is US $20,143 from partners.
The programme had since 2001 been receiving limited funding from Germany. During the past five years, the programme had successfully carried out education on many development issues that included Health, Agriculture, Education, Micro-Enterprise Development and Environment.
The Monks Community Forest (MCF), Northwest Cambodia
In the far northwest of Cambodia, near the Thai border, a group of Buddhist monks are confronting forest loss head on. In 2002, Venerable Bun Saluth, head of Samrong Pagoda in Oddar Meanchay Province, initiated the protection of an 18,261 hectare area now called the Monks Community Forest (MCF).
Venerable Saluth felt it his personal mission to stop the illegal logging that was destroying his province’s natural resource base, and to conserve the Cambodian forest, based on Buddhist principles of respect for nature and for all life. “The tree is a symbol of life, and sacred to Buddhists: Buddha was born under the tree, attained enlightenment under the tree, and died under the tree,” he explains. The monks say they wish to conserve this area as Cambodia’s living heritage, and to ensure that poor communities living near the MCF benefit from the forest for years to come.
In a society where 90% of the population is Buddhist, and where the pagoda functions as a town’s community and spiritual centre, the words and actions of these Samrong monks set a powerful example. Villagers living close to the MCF have stepped forward to volunteer their time, and to pay for their own petrol and food in order to conduct forest patrols in support of the monks’ efforts. Despite the inherent dangers, the daily forest patrols have seriously reduced illegal activities in the majority of the MCF. Locals assert it is the best piece of forest remaining in a province that is being logged without accountability by corrupt businessmen and officials. The current level of protection would not be possible, they say, if the monks were not at the helm of conservation efforts.
Although hunting and logging are not allowed in the MCF, people are free to collect non-timber forest products, such as bamboo shoots, wild ginger, resin, mushrooms, and to fish using traditional methods.
Nowhere in Cambodia are monks involved in such a hands on way with forest protection. This is a rare example of a conservation ethic that has emanated from the pagoda and into nearby villages.
The MCF is principally supported by donations to the pagoda and by villagers who use their own resources to meet the costs of the patrols. US $20,000 funding would go an enormous way towards meeting the costs of increased forest protection in the MCF, helping to buy and repair motorbikes and fuel for patrolling. It would greatly help local people to get involved supporting the monks.
(The NGO Community Forest International has been looking at carbon values for a large area of community forests in NW Cambodia, including the Monks Community Forest)
cost US$ 20,000
Operation Green: Plant a Tree Now!
Presbyterian Church in Cameroon
The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon has over 30 years experience in tree environmental programs.
Now, however, urgent action is needed. Climate change is already making itself felt with the drying up of many water sources and advancing desertification and with an increase in temperatures through a prolonged dry season followed by flooding with prolonged rainfall. Areas affected are already seeing an increase in poverty with sharp rises in prices and local people unable to make ends meet.
In response, the Presbyterian Church wants to plant 100,000 trees over three years in all the 10 regions of Cameroon.
The three-year project will aim to plant 100,000 trees in different communities in Cameroon and ensure water catchments in communities are protected and developed
The Church will work to raise environmental awareness about tree planting with local Presbyterian churches as well as with the local Roman Catholic Church, Protestant Mission and Muslims. It will work through young people in Presbyterian colleges and government schools to form clubs to plants trees and mobilize PCC movements- the Christian Youth Fellowship, the Christian Women Fellowship and the Christian Men Fellowship -to plant trees in identified communities nationwide as volunteers. It will organise training workshops, work through the media and provide tree seedlings to be planted by volunteers in collaboration wiht the Ministries of Forestry, Environment, Agriculture and Research.
COST FCFA 96,015,000 (about US $210,000)