Issue Papers: Global Warming and Climate Change
Church Council Actions
Caring for Creation: Global Warming and Climate Change
RECOMMENDED by the Advisory Committee
on Corporate Social Responsibility, September 6, 2003.
ENDORSED by the Board of the Division for Church in Society,
October 24, 2003
APPROVED by the Church Council
November 2003 (see 2003 version)
Updated by Advisory Committee
on Corporate Social Responsibility, September 28, 2007
Approved by Church Council
Updated by Advisory Committee
on Corporate Social Responsibility, September 10, 2010
Approved by Church Council
The earth is a planet of beauty and abundance; the earth system is wonderfully intricate and incredibly complex. But today living creatures, and the air, soil and water that support them, face unprecedented threats. Many threats are global: most stem directly from human activity (“Caring for Creation,” 2.B-1).  As Christians, we understand human beings as fundamentally responsible before God. With the reach of our contemporary human knowledge and the power we employ in new technologies, this responsibility in terms of caring for creation now includes the global future itself. Central to that question is the threat posed by global warming and climate change.
These threats and changes were first summarized in the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001: Synthesis Report , which concludes that there is an increasing body of observations that gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Examples include rising surface temperatures, snow and ice melts, rising sea levels, and changes in weather patterns, such as drought, flooding, and monsoons. This was reinforced in the 2007 Climate Change Assessment Report and additional special reports from the IPCC.
Ceres is a network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies to integrate sustainability into capital markets for the health of the planet and its people. Numerous reports are published by Ceres calling the corporate world to address issues of climate change and sustainability. 
II. ELCA Social Policy
“Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice” (ELCA, 1993): The social statement develops this church’s vision of creation, while showing us the gift of hope. It calls us to justice through principles of participation, solidarity, sufficiency, and sustainability. Specifically this social statement calls the church to gather information and engage in dialogue with corporations on how to promote justice for creation (5.E.1-1). Dialogues include implementing comprehensive environmental principles, promoting healthy environments, and cooperation between the public and private sector regarding sustainability.
The 1995 Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution on Environment – Energy Audits (CA95.05.26b).  The 1999 Churchwide Assembly (CA99.06.30)  expressed great concern about the destructive practice of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and urged our church to advocate ending it. The 2001 Churchwide Assembly (CA01.07.57)  reaffirmed the commitment of this church to the care of creation, including global warming, as part of the web of complex interwoven environmental concerns.
In 2005 the Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution on Caring for Creation (CA05.07.39)  encouraging our church to renew the commitment to caring for creation, followed by a 2007 Churchwide Assembly memorial on Energy Efficiency (CA07.06.33g) and in 2009 the Genesis Covenant (CA09.03.09).
III. Corporate Response
It has become accepted practice for a company to begin this work by evaluating and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions and its total “footprint”. Corporate reporting includes the amount of greenhouse gases from production and use of their products, the delivery process for their products, and their suppliers’ emissions. Setting targets for decreasing their emissions and moving toward renewable technologies is often included in reports. In addition, the company can review their probable risk exposure to the financial and competitive consequences of climate change, ensure that they have sufficient expertise to make informed and responsible decisions and set benchmarks. Climate change strategies and strategic alliances can be built into an overall business plan.
IV. Social Criteria Investment Screens
A screen is a pre-existing framework of principles specific to an issue by which a company’s activities are evaluated. The environmental social criteria investment screen approved by the ELCA in 1990 and updated in 2007 responds to this issue. 
V. Resolution Guidelines for ELCA
1. We support reports on greenhouse gas footprints, as well as the establishment of targets for their reduction, including requests that a company complete the Carbon Disclosure Project  (CDP) questionnaire.
2. We support disclosure of the economic risks associated with past, present, and future emissions and/or climate change.
3. We support reports on the economic benefits of committing to a substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction of product emissions.
4. We support reports on public policies that enable and assist with the achievement of emission targets, including policies and procedures for political contributions and expenditures.
5. We support reports on economic risks associated with a company’s exposure to the myriad of pending and adopted legislation from state, regional, and international bodies as it relates to reduction of greenhouse gases and the adequacy of such legislation to protect human health, the environment and the company’s reputation.
6. We support reports on increased energy efficiency and conservation.
7. We support requests to adopt quantitative goals to reduce future emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and heavy metals such as mercury.
8. We support reports and assessments of steps a company is taking to meet new fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for its transportation fleet.
9. We support adoption of policies for safe low-carbon energy research, development and production.
10. We support reports on strategic plans reviewing the scenario of demand for significantly lowering fossil fuel use in the future.
11. We support amendments of a company’s greenhouse gas emissions policies to observe a moratorium and/or cease all financing, investment and further involvement in activities that support MTR coal mining or the construction of new coal-burning power plants that emit carbon dioxide.
12. We support reports that publicly disclose a company’s current and projected water withdrawals at each thermoelectric power plant.
VI. Resolution guidelines for ELCA – General
13. We support practices of good governance, specifically:
- a company having an independent chair or independent lead director;
- reports on policies and procedures for political contributions and expenditures (both direct and indirect made with corporate funds;
- reports on any portion of any dues or similar payments made to any tax exempt organization that is used for an expenditure or contribution which might be deemed political; and
- guidelines or policies governing the company’s political contributions and expenditures.