United Methodist Women and Moms Clean Air Force hosted the Climate Justice = Just Energy 4 All conference at Coker UMC: San Antonio on December 1 to raise awareness and discuss how climate change is impacting the nation and the city.
Activists and Methodists shared ideas and discussed solutions to the ever-changing climate crisis, especially in the wake of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
UMW Executive for Economic and Environmental Justice Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee wanted to bring the annual meeting to San Antonio because of the health impacts of fossil fuels on communities in Texas, as well as promote the Just Energy 4 All campaign.
“In the United States, we are only four percent of the world’s population, but we emit 25% of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lee. “There are about 100 companies responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1880. There is environmental pollution. Unfortunately, it’s on the bodies, backs, and livelihoods of communities of color: African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, and poor communities. When we are caring for God’s creation, the Earth, we also need to seek justice.”
UMW is planning on installing solar panels at The Holding Institute in Laredo to help offset rising costs for central air conditioning.
DeeDee Belmares, a Texas Field Consultant for Moms Clean Air Force, works closely with UMW and offers tours of fracking sites. The emphasis on justice is also important for their activism.
“Just in Bexar County alone, there are 33,000 cases of asthma,” said Belmares. “The EPA put Bexar County in nonattainment. Local children are breathing air that is not good for their little lungs, and it’s also not good for our senior citizens.”
Eloisa Portillo-Morales, the City of San Antonio’s Sustainability Planning Manager for the Office of Sustainability, highlighted the city’s efforts to adapt to climate change.
“We currently have seven days a year of over 100 degree temperatures in San Antonio. By 2040, we expect to have 30 days a year of over 100 degree temperatures. What does that do to our community?” said Portillo-Morales. “We’re doing this while still seeing a population growth of possibly over a million people by 2040. It impacts everybody, but it doesn’t impact everybody the same way.”
Last June, the San Antonio City Council passed resolutions to support the Paris Climate Accord and to become a compassionate city. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is being developed with 90+ stakeholders.
UMW is encouraging local chapters to deliver letters to Ford dealerships and urge the company to keep clean car standards, even as the EPA has rolled back those requirements. They are also urging oil and gas companies to reduce emissions. During the event, participants signed letters to Chevron, one of the largest natural gas producers in the world, and their new CEO Mike Wirth to follow through on No. 4 of “Guiding Principles on Reducing Methane Emissions” which Chevron signed onto earlier this year:
Advocate sound policy and regulations on methane emissions: support policies that incentivize early action, drive performance improvements, facilitate proper enforcement, and support flexibility and innovation.
Belmares invited Public Citizen activist Briauna Barrera to present her story about working with public officials and the community.
“It’s scary, but I also think its immensely hopeful,” said Barrera. “A huge part of my work is building relationships with people so that they know we are not struggling alone. I’m invested in your well-being as much as my own. Once that trust is established, maybe we can redirect that fear toward more focused action with a target or goal in mind.”