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SB 323: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act - Reauthorization

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public-policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

SB 323 repeals the termination date for a provision of law requiring the State to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 2006 levels by 2020. The legislation obliges the State to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2006 levels by 2030 and the Department of the Environment to submit specified plans of action to meet these requirements to the Governor and the General Assembly.

The Conference is taking a position to neither support nor oppose this legislation. Given the recent publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si), the Conference is offering the following information as you consider this important issue.

Generally speaking, the Conference supports balanced measures to protect the environment without imposing undue burdens on the poor and nonprofits. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Catechism) teaches us that:
The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation (no. 2415). 

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis recognizes that global warming and rising sea levels are directly tied to a high concentration of greenhouse gas emissions that have largely resulted from human activity. This warming affects the carbon cycle and jeopardizes drinking water, agricultural production, the acidity of the ocean, and earth’s biodiversity –all of which have serious consequences for the earth and humanity (no. 24). Therefore, greenhouse gas emissions must be limited. He boldly states that, “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most” (Laudato Si, no. 169). Every effort must be made to be accountable for the pollution we create and work collectively to alter human activities (e.g.: rely less on fossil fuels) to slow the effects of global warming.

One of the seven pillars of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), Care for Creation, directly flows from the Catechism as all of us are reminded to be good stewards of the creation and to preserve natural resources for today’s society and future generations. Another aspect of CST, Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, is also closely tied to Care for Creation because it is the poor and vulnerable who are most affected by changes in the environment, both globally and locally. Pope Francis said, “a true ecological approach 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” (Laudato Si, no. 49). It is commendable that SB 323 ensures that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions do not have a disproportionate impact on low-income, low- to moderate-income, minority, and rural communities. 

With all of this in mind, the Conference encourages all plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to be framed in a comprehensive and integrative approach that considers how natural systems and social systems converge, and is not limited to only policies or technological changes. 

The Conference appreciates your consideration of SB 323.