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Interfaith Power & Light Gets a Charge from Pope's Encyclical


For 15 years and counting, Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) has worked to turn people of all religious faiths onto the idea that addressing climate change by deploying renewable energy technologies. Renewables can not only deliver clean, affordable electrical power, they say, but it can also address unemployment and spur socially beneficial development in communities nationwide.

San Francisco-based IPL received a big boost in the form of Pope Francis's encyclical on climate change, which the Pope presented in a crowded St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on June 18.

The people's rally that took place during the Pope's presentation gave “quite powerful witness that Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of all faiths can all work together based on common interest,” IPL president and founder, Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, told TriplePundit. “The Pope is telling everyone that we all share this planet and have a moral obligation to care for each other and all God's creation.”

With a membership that reaches across some 18,000 congregations, each with around 400 members, the people-power IPL brings to the climate change and renewable energy “table” is substantial. Hundreds of those congregations have taken advantage of IPL's solar finance guide to have solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems installed with no up-front payment. The faith-based nonprofit believes the Pope's encyclical will spur many more to do the same.

Bridging divides

Coinciding with presentation of the Pope's climate change encyclical, IPL held an interfaith panel on climate change. Webcast live, a rabbi, an imam, a Baptist, an Evangelical and an Episcopalian discussed the Pope's message and how renewable energy offers the means to address the challenges of climate change, energy, and environmental and social justice.

“We've been preaching and teaching the moral dimension of climate change for 15 years now,” Rev. Cannon Bingham told 3p. “This is a spiritual, a religious and moral issue, not merely an issue of economics and politics.

“Up until now, even people of faith that recognized we have been destroying God's creation have let money and politics trump their faith. But when someone like Pope Francis comes out and speaks so clearly and so eloquently, well, we think this will be very powerful.”

Ramping up faith-based climate change, solar energy campaigns

IPL ramped up its public outreach and educational campaigns in the run-up to presentation of the Pope's climate change encyclical. Its official release should add momentum to its climate change and clean energy initiatives. For example, IPL has launched an online campaign entitled “Many faiths, one Earth” via which Web users can sign on in support of the Pope's message.

IPL is also running an online campaign dubbed the Paris Pledge, which aims to raise public voices in calling on world leaders to agree to a strong global climate change treaty at the upcoming U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP-21) to be held in Paris this December. The more than 100 IPL congregations that have made the Paris Pledge aim to reduce their carbon footprints in half by 2030 and to be carbon-neutral by 2050, Rev. Cannon Bingham explained.

Helping fuel its ongoing efforts to promote solar energy deployment across its 18,000 member congregations, IPL is running an online Solar Pledge campaign.

IPL sees prospects improving when it comes to stronger climate change action and renewable energy use in the U.S. resulting from the Pope's climate change encyclical. It may even be powerful enough to turn the tide in the U.S. Congress, where climate change deniers and the influence of fossil fuel companies to continue to squash climate change action and stronger clean energy and energy efficiency legislation, Rev. Canon Bingham said.

“Hopefully [the Pope's climate change encyclical] will be the game-changer. I firmly believe that when hearts and minds change, the politics will follow.”

*Image credits: 1) Order of Carmelites; 2), 3) Interfaith Power & Light

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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