Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said 15,000 Catholics signed an online petition that was submitted to the president March 15. It was developed as one response to Trump administration claims that climate change is not caused by human activities.
"They are issues that our organization, the Catholic bishops, Catholic Relief Services and other organizations have supported for years," Misleh said of the three areas addressed in the petition. "We think there is a federal role for action on the climate issue.
"We feel it's important to remind the current administration that there is a strong support for these issues because climate change is real and we need to have an effective national policy to address climate change," he told Catholic News Service.
The petition reviews the support of Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for policies to address climate change. It also asks Trump to maintain the country's "moral leadership on climate change" by honouring the Paris climate agreement, which calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
The Paris accord has been ratified by 134 of the 197 countries that approved it in December 2015 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. President Barack Obama ratified the agreement on his own, bypassing the U.S. Senate. The agreement went into force in October after enough countries ratified it.
The signers of the petition also call on the administration to support sustainable development initiatives and address the underlying causes of migration through the Green Climate Fund. Through January, the U.S. had contributed $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund under a four-year, $3 billion pledge to help developing countries respond to climate change.
The petition asks Trump to uphold the Clean Power Plan by encouraging states to craft plans to reach or exceed the plan's limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and to move toward renewable energy sources including wind and solar power. The Trump administration is weighing action to withdraw the plan, which the Environmental Protection Agency introduced in 2014.
Misleh said steps to protect the environment are important for the future of the planet and its inhabitants and called for federal support of market-based approaches to reduce energy consumption.
"That includes supporting and deploying renewable energy, energy conservation measures and those types of things that help to create jobs and help to reduce greenhouse gases and save money for consumers, churches, and schools and hospitals owned by the church," he explained.
Seventeen Catholic organizations and religious institutions endorsed the petition including Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach; Conference of Major Superiors of Men; Leadership Conference of Women Religious; Franciscan Action Network; Global Catholic Climate Movement; Ignatian Solidarity Network; Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; the Benedictine monks of Weston Priory in Vermont; Dominican Sisters Conference; Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt, New York; Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart; Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States; Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Donnelly College, Kansas City, Kansas; Rosemont College, near Philadelphia; and Siena College, Loudonville, New York.