The Pope’s Visit – Renewing the Call to Act on Climate

By Administrator Gina McCarthy

This week, Pope Francis made an historic visit to Washington, DC, where he met with President Obama, addressed Congress, and lead a public rally to support moral action on climate justice.

This summer, the Pope issued a landmark encyclical emphasizingour moral obligation to act on climate change – for the sake of our kids and vulnerable populations around the world. His visit to Washington this week is a reminder that taking action is as urgent as ever to protect our “common home”.

At EPA, we couldn’t agree more. Environmental justice is at the core of everything we do – including our work to address climate change. Climate change is personal—it affects every American. But low-income and minority communities are particularly vulnerable to climate-related changes like stronger storms, floods, fires, and droughts. And on top of that, they are often the least able to rebuild after a disaster.

Low-income and minority Americans are also more likely to live in the shadow of polluting industries like power plants, and more likely to be exposed to higher levels of pollution. And the carbon pollution driving climate change comes packaged with other dangerous soot- and smog-forming pollutants that can lead to lung and heart disease.

More than 10 million American children have been diagnosed with asthma. But black and Latino children, as well as children from low-income families, are more likely to suffer from asthma and respiratory problems than other kids are.

Of course, climate change isn’t just happening here in the U.S. Citizens in low-lying countries like Bangladesh and Pacific Island nations are retreating from sea level rise; parts of Africa are facing blistering drought, threatening the food supply; indigenous people in the Arctic are seeing summer sea-ice recede to unprecedented levels.

We all have roles to play in taking action on behalf of those who bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. And by working together, we can meet the challenge. This message was crystal clear in the Pope’s recent encyclical:

“Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”

I’m so proud to be able to say that the United States is stepping up to this call.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan puts our Nation on track to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030—all while keeping energy reliable and affordable. As we speak, states across the country are putting pen to paper and crafting plans for implementation.

The faith community has been an extraordinary catalyst for climate action, and we’ve seen incredible support and progress from the private sector as well. Businesses of all sizes are embracing the task, working to reduce their carbon footprints, planning for future climate change, and propelling innovative clean energy solutions forward. I also continue to be encouraged by the steps being taken by our partners around the world, including economies large and small and some of the world’s biggest emitters.

This collective momentum makes me confident that a global climate agreement will be reached in Paris later this year. And it gives me hope that we will rise to the Pope’s moral call: to protect the least of these, and to safeguard a beautiful, abundant planet full of opportunity for our kids and for generations to come.

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