Under President George W. Bush the compassion and capabilities of the faith community were recognized and encouraged by a new White House Faith-Based Initiative. President Obama has not only continued this work, but has expanded beyond social services to recognize the renewed and growing interest by the faith community in stewardship of the environment, or “creation care” as it is often called.
To this end, the 25 Presidential appointees comprising the White House Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Council are supported by a Task Force on the Environment and Climate Change, which includes some Council members as well as other unpaid appointees. This diverse group includes the Rev. Jim Ball, Senior Director of the Evangelical Environmental Network; the Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, President of the Regeneration Project and Interfaith Power and Light; Cassandra Carmichael, Director of Eco-Justice for National Council of Churches; Nathan J. Diament, Public Policy Director for Union of Othodox Jewish Congregations; the Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley, Senior Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church; Juliet Ellis, Executive Director of Urban Habitat; Most Rev. Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church; Jonathan Merrit, Founder of the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Change Initiative; Dan Misleh, Executive Director of the catholic Coalition on Climate Change; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of reform Judaism; Hadar Susskind, former Washington Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Recommendations made to federal agencies include:
Energy efficiency and green jobs:
1. Form an Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and assign Faith and Community Liaisons to EPA regional offices.
2. The Administration should provide guidance to state and local governments on how to partner with faith-based and nonprofit organizations to retrofit green buildings.
3. Encourage the Department of Labor, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other Federal agencies to work cooperatively with faith-based and neighborhood organizations to ensure that low-income communities and workers with barriers to employment are targeted when creating green job training programs.
Environmental education and communications:
4. The Administration should sponsor a public educational campaign on the environment, utilizing a centralized Website, such as Environment.gov.
5. The White House should sponsor regional conferences to mobilize faith and community-based organizations to promote environmental sustainability and energy efficiency.
Sustainable, community gardening and small-scale agriculture:
6. Support partnerships and collaboration for sustainable, community gardening and small-scale agriculture.
Climate change adaptation:
7. Provide the opportunity for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) to apply for funds to implement international adaptation objectives.
8. Set up a task force to study how emission offsets can maximize climate-resilient development and the participation of PVOs in such efforts.
9. Active engagement of the NGO sector in the review and design of domestic and international adaptation strategies.
To download the full report of recommendations, including those on economic recovery and domestic poverty, fatherhood and healthy families, inter-religious cooperation and global poverty and development, please visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/11/a-new-era-partnerships-advisory-council-faith-based-and-neighborhood-partnerships-pr