Tuesday, Mar 15, 2022

Contact your legislator about Care for Creation here.

Last year, Illinois passed legislation – the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act – to lead the state to decarbonization and greater use of clean energy, with an aim to be at 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. While the Catholic Conference of Illinois did not take a position on this specific legislation, the Illinois bishops did share a statement on principles of clean energy and care for creation as discussions were ongoing on this proposal. These principles, based on Catholic Social Teaching and Laudato Si’ (the 2015 encyclical from Pope Francis), continue to be important considerations as the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act is implemented and as additional legislation and budget items that advance care for creation are proposed.

As Pope Francis states in Laudato Si’, the “climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” (23) It is with concern for this common good that we urge Illinois to continue its progress on the path to increased renewable and clean energy, accompanied by significant reductions in pollution and carbon emissions, support for rural communities in our state, increased access to clean water, protection from toxic chemicals, and addressing other environmental blights on our common home, the Earth.

We further note that any efforts should hold fast to the litmus test for any new policy: Does it respect the life and dignity of the human person and consider the impact on marginalized populations, such as the poor and vulnerable?

Additionally, we recall that Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ keeps top of mind the concept of “integral ecology,” in which nothing on the Earth exists in isolation. Any efforts should recognize and respect this “integral ecology”:

“Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment.” (141)

“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (139)

With these principles in mind, we offer the following considerations:

• We urge the Illinois General Assembly to continue to increase funding for the Illinois Solar for All program, which offers incentives to poor communities and nonprofit organizations to install solar panels on their buildings.
• We urge continued efforts to expand access to and boost monies for electric and gas energy efficiency programs. We stress, however, that any such expansion should not be funded by vendors or utilities that would burden families or nonprofits in poor communities.
• We encourage ongoing efforts under the new Climate and Equitable Jobs Act to expand job opportunities in the renewable energy industry and to reinvest in communities that have hosted fossil fuel power plants, coal mines, or nuclear plants through workforce training programs, incentives for new business creation, and revitalization of land stripped for fossil fuels.
• Our brothers and sisters in rural and agricultural areas of the state must not be forgotten. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urges us to plan for a “sustainable and diversified agriculture.” (164)
• We encourage efforts to safeguard our water supply and increase access to clean water. As stated in Laudato Si’, “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.” (30)
• As human life and our environment are interconnected, we must protect both from toxic chemicals, like per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). As stated in Laudato Si’ “human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement.” (5)