Catholics should support an agenda moving towards a green economy. Michael Swan

Luke Stocking: Spiritual force needed to support green agenda

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  • September 11, 2020

In a recent interview with Global News, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government will put forward an “ambitious agenda” for a green recovery. “We know the world is going towards lower carbon,” he said. It appears that he is willing to stake the fate of his minority government on such an agenda.

It is my belief that as Catholics we should support any agenda of any government that can accurately be described as ambitious when it comes to a green recovery. Such support is predicated on acceptance of the teaching of Laudato Si’ — a teaching that is not easy for all Catholics to accept. Especially those of us who live in an industrialized country like Canada.

I wish I could say that Laudato Si’ has created a broad Catholic consensus in Canada that stretches into our pews and marks the view that elected officials have of who we are and what we stand for. But I cannot. Yet.

The truth is that there remains much dialogue on the future of our common home to be had within our own communities before we can get there. Political divisions that exist within our country also exist within our parish and diocesan communities.

However, we have something that others who are divided by politics do not. We have a shared faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I sincerely believe that honest and open dialogue that is rooted in the Gospel invites the presence of the Holy Spirit and draws on the tradition of the Church can yield incredible fruit. It can transcend other political identities we may hold tightly to on both sides of the spectrum. There is a long way to go before the Catholic Church can overcome our own political divisions and become a significant spiritual force on the politics of our country — but I believe it is possible.

I also believe it is necessary. Canada needs a spiritual force to support an ambitious agenda. Politics alone cannot carry it forward.

Let us not forget that any ambitious agenda that truly reflects the values of Laudato Si’ cannot be a one-dimensional “environmental agenda.” Rather, it must be a truly ecological approach which “always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” (LS49).

The current political context recalls for me another passage from the encyclical: “The myopia of power politics delays the inclusion of a far-sighted environmental agenda within the overall agenda of governments. Thus, we forget that ‘time is greater than space,’ that we are always more effective when we generate processes rather than holding on to positions of power. True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good” (LS178).

It is not yet known what constitutes an “ambitious agenda” for the federal government. But a growing movement of Christians from the “For the Love of Creation” initiative have laid out some points for consideration.

These points have been expressed in an open letter to the new finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, that will be delivered in advance of the Throne Speech:

1. Commit to reducing Canadian GHG emissions by 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, while investing in a just transition to a fair, inclusive, green economy that creates good secure jobs, and promotes the well-being of everyone in Canada.

2. Honour the rights of Indigenous peoples by recognizing and enacting the right to free, prior and informed consent, particularly in the context of climate policy, energy policy and infrastructure development; and by legislating the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

3. Commit equal support for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in the Global South through international climate financing mechanisms, with additional funding for loss and damage, scaling up to a fair share contribution of at least $4 billion (US) per year.

4. Respond to the pandemic in the Global South through multilateral debt cancellation and increased grant-based support for Canadian international NGOs.

This agenda will also be presented to government when Parliament resumes though a parliamentary petition sponsored by Toronto-area MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. The petition is open for signature until Oct. 6.  I strongly urge you to consider signing it as a tangible embrace of the teaching of Laudato Si’. If it happens that you do not agree with it, consider being open to a dialogue with a fellow Christian who does.

(Stocking is Deputy Director of Public Awareness & Engagement, Ontario and Atlantic Regions, for Development and Peace.)

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