Confronting the Challenge of Climate Change

Resolution Adopted by the CCAR


Adopted by the 109th Annual Convention of the

Central Conference of American Rabbis

June, 1998


In December 1997, the nations of the world gathered in Kyoto, Japan to develop a treaty with binding commitments to address the threat of climate change. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of over 2,000 climate scientists from around the world changed to evaluate the data on climate change to inform the treaty negotiations, has documented a number of changes in the earth’s atmosphere that are attributed to human activity

causing elevated levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that are heating the earth’s surface.

We believe that the following principles should serve as the foundation for the development of agreements and policies to address climate change:

Responsibilities to Future Generations: “Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live ” (Deuteronomy 30:20) Humankind has solemn obligation to improve the world for future generations. Minimizing climate change requires us to learn how to live within the ecological limits of the earth so that we will not compromise the ecological or economic security of those who come after us.

Integrity of Creation: “The human being was placed in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it.” (Genesis 2:15) Humankind has a solemn obligation to protect the integrity of ecological systems so that their diverse constituent species, including humans, can thrive.

Equitable Distribution of Responsibility: Nations’ responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions should correlate to their contribution to the problem. The United States has built an economy highly dependent upon fossil fuel use that has affected the entire globe and must therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a manner which accounts for its share of the


Protection of the Vulnerable: “When one loves righteousness and justice, the earth is full of the loving-kindness of the Eternal” (Psalm 33:5) The requirements and implementations procedures to address climate change must protect those most vulnerable to climate change: poor people, those living in coastal areas, those who rely on subsistence agriculture.

Energy Independence: In recent years, the U S. has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil supplies, with important implications for U.S. foreign policy, economic dislocation, and trade deficits. Aggressive measures to wean the U.S. economy from its reliance on fossil fuels will contribute substantially to a secure energy policy.

Strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is consistent with a number of long-standing public policy priorities, including: improving air quality, increasing mass transit, development of non-polluting alternative energy sources, energy efficiency and energy conservation.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis call on the Clinton Administration to negotiate – and the U.S. Senate to ratify — binding international agreements to minimize climate change by committing the U.S., other industrialized countries, and developing nations to reducing their current and projected emissions sufficiently to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations at a level that will not result in widespread human and/or ecological harm. This will require that the United States agree to close the gap between the targets set forth by President Clinton and those proposed by the European Union, resulting in industrial nation emissions below 1990 levels by the year 2010. In addition, international agreements should reflect historic and current disparities in per capita carbon emissions between industrialized and developing nations and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Congress to appropriate the funds proposed by President Clinton to fulfill our nation’s responsibility to reduce global carbon emissions: One billion dollars for aid to developing nations to control carbon emissions and five billion dollars for the development and deployment of non-carbon fuel alternatives. These appropriations are an important down-payment on what will be needed to achieve safe atmospheric carbon levels in the long run, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the federal government to immediately adopt a variety of policies to accomplish such reductions, particularly programs that use pricing to lower demand for fossil fuels, encourage the development of non-polluting energy sources, and raise revenue for public projects, such as mass transit, that would lower carbon emissions. Additionally, standards relating to fossil fuel use, such as power plant emissions standards and motor vehicle fuel efficiency standards, should require the use of the most advanced fuel efficiency and emissions reduction technologies available. Such policies must be complemented with programs to help those who live in the United States whose economic security would be jeopardized by such policies, including assistance to poor people to compensate for increased expenses for electricity, fuel, and transportation and retraining and economic transition assistance for coal miners and other affected workers and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis join with other organizations in urging institutions within the Jewish community, to conduct energy audits of private homes and communal facilities, including synagogues, schools, community centers, and commercial buildings.

Together, the people of the world can, and must, use our God-given gifts to develop innovative strategies to meet the needs of all who currently dwell on this planet without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.