Religious orders ask Ottawa to cut Canada's carbon emissions

April 20, 2015
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA – Religious congregations and faith groups from across Canada have urged Canada's finance minister to put a price on carbon emissions to combat climate change.

The 53 groups asked Finance Minister Joe Oliver to have the Canadian government "set a clear, reliable and effective price for carbon emissions with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting catastrophic climate change."

The letter was made public April 14, the day after Ontario announced it would bring in a cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions.

The province will cap the allowable levels of emissions and allow those industries that exceeded them to trade permits with those that have burned less. Quebec already has a cap and trade system in place.

British Columbia took a different route and introduced a carbon tax in 2008. The letter does not specify how to price carbon emissions.

The groups who wrote the letter to Oliver describe themselves as "religious institutional investors" who represent more than $2 billion in assets.

While noting the care of creation is part of the groups' faith traditions, the letter stressed the links between the economy and care for the environment and does not specify how carbon emissions should be priced.

"It is all of our responsibility to take serious action on climate change," said Bridget Doherty, who works for the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office for the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, based in Kingston, Ont.

"Climate change is real and we know we have a real responsibility to do the right thing not just for generations now but also in the future."

The Sisters of Providence joined the Jesuits of English Canada, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Loretto Sisters, the Presentation Sisters, the Congregation of the Holy Cross, the Redemptorists, and many other religious congregations in French and English Canada from across the country in signing the letter.

The Anglican Church of Canada, Evangelical Lutheran groups, the Canadian Friends Service Committee, Citizens for Public Justice, the United Church of Canada's pension fund and other faith institutions also signed.

Anne-Marie Jackson, spokesperson for Jesuits in English Canada, said Jesuit provincial Father Peter Bisson signed because of the longstanding interest Jesuits have in the effects of the economic crisis, the erosion of the environment and climate change on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable populations.

The economy and environment are "inextricably linked," Jackson said.

"Both a carbon tax and cap and trade are two different ways of coming at some of the change that's needed," she said. "We definitely feel this federal government needs to be taking a much stronger stand on either a carbon tax or cap and trade."

CARBON TAX SIMPLER

"A carbon tax is a simpler way of doing it," she said.

Doherty said for industry and consumers alike, a carbon tax makes it clearer what price they are going to pay, giving them more certainty.

Collecting a price on carbon is one thing, Doherty said. "It is also important that any money collected is used wisely for better public transportation, high speed rail, renewable energy and further measures."