Op-Ed:Regardless of Trump’s decision on Paris accord, Iowans can keep leading on clean energy

Source: By REV. SUSAN HENDERSHOT GUY, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I was heading back to the hotel at the end of a long day. I had been attending a conference in Washington, D.C. on climate advocacy, and what I wanted was to have some dinner, read a book and think about something other than climate change for a while. I hailed a cab, climbed in, undoubtedly stared at my phone and started texting with a friend. The cab driver was chatty, and he asked me what I do for a living.

This is usually the point when I will say something vague, such as, “I run a nonprofit organization,” or “I do advocacy on clean energy.” I have found it to be a good practice when I want to avoid political conflict not to say the words “climate change.” But for some reason, maybe because I had just spent all day learning about how to be a better advocate, I said, “I run a nonprofit organization that works on the issue of climate change with people of faith.”

My cab driver spoke in heavily accented English, and with the beauty of a philosopher he said to me, “You don’t take care of something, you lose it. You don’t take care of your health, you lose it. You don’t take care of your family, you lose it. You don’t take care of your job, you lose it. You don’t take care of the Earth, you lose it.”

He went on to say, “Everyone wants to take the easy way. Not to take care of something, that is the easy way. But we must work.”

People of faith are, in fact, working on climate and energy issues. I believe that the faith voice is so critical because we act not from a place of self-interest, but of compassion. The religious community has always been able to explore solutions from local, national and global perspectives because it is working at all of those levels to care for those who are suffering.

This week, the United States will be participating in the G7 summit in Italy. The summit will focus on the global economy, foreign policy, security of citizens and environmental sustainability. Notably, for those of us working on climate advocacy, the Trump administration has said it will make a decision about whether to stay in the Paris climate accord sometime after the G7 summit.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, as well as to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. As a part of this agreement, 197 countries set voluntary targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, here in Iowa, we have already seen the benefits of increasing our use of clean energy, which include reducing our carbon emissions. Wind energy provides more than 36 percent of our electric generation — the highest percentage of any state — and more than 6,000 jobs. Iowans do not have to choose between what is good for our planet and what is good for our economy.

Regardless of what happens at the G7 summit or with the decision on the Paris climate accord, Iowans will continue to reap the benefits of our bipartisan support for clean energy.

Members of Congress also have an opportunity to be leaders on this issue. The House Climate Solutions Caucus is comprised of 38 House members — an even number of Republicans and Democrats. Members acknowledge that, if left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely affect the health of all Americans and the strength of our economy.

The caucus could use the experience of our Iowa delegation to offer examples of solutions that are working, and we call on Rep. David Young to provide leadership by joining the House Climate Solutions Caucus. This is an opportunity to do the work — together.

REV. SUSAN HENDERSHOT GUY is executive director of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light.