House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled long-awaited legislation designed to reduce carbon emissions and take on climate change by binding the United States to commitments made under the Obama-era Paris climate accord.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan MORE (D-Calif.) joined other Democrats in releasing the legislative package in the Capitol, framing climate change as "an existential threat" and promising that the party will move the legislation quickly to the floor.
“The American people know that the … crisis is an existential threat of our generation, of our time, a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions,” she said.
The five-page bill known as the Climate Action Now Act aims to block President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE from pulling out of the Paris climate agreement reached by the U.S. and other world powers in 2015 under former President Obama. Under the bill, Trump would also have to submit a new plan to Congress outlining how the U.S. will continue to meet the goals established in the Paris agreement.
Trump has said the accord threatens the economic prosperity of industries in the U.S. and that he intends to withdraw from the agreement in November 2020 — the earliest he’s legally permitted to do so.
Since taking office, Trump has allowed his administration to circumvent the carbon-cutting goals laid out by the agreement.
The Democrats’ bill comes from Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorFacebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Democrats seize on 'alarm bell' climate report in spending plan push Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Cities a surprise refuge for wildlife MORE (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, a panel that Pelosi created at the start of the year following calls from progressives for a more concerted effort in the Democratic-led House to tackle climate change.
The issue has created some territorial tensions within the party, as leaders of the committees with jurisdiction over climate initiatives have fought to maintain their authority over how Democrats proceed. The tensions forced Pelosi to balance those concerns with those of advocacy groups pressing for a more aggressive approach to environmental protection. She did so by creating the special committee, without giving it the ability to issue subpoenas like other panels.
Castor on Wednesday said tackling climate change is “a moral obligation” facing Congress, framing the new legislation as just the first step of a much broader Democratic effort to address the global crisis.
The bill will be marked up in the various committees of jurisdiction “over the coming weeks,” Castor said, and come to the floor afterward.
The rollout of the bill comes a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) brought a vote on another climate bill — the Green New Deal — which was designed to put Democrats on the record on legislation lobbied by progressives that’s emerging as a litmus test for 2020 presidential candidates.
Democratic leaders called it a “sham” vote, noting the absence of hearings on the legislation. And Senate Democrats sought to defuse any controversy surrounding the bill by largely voting present on the floor.
The Green New Deal resolution, which many Democrats view as aspirational, at best, largely aims to jump-start U.S. economic growth by transitioning the country’s electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Pelosi has long declined to say whether she intends to bring a vote on the House’s version of the Green New Deal resolution, championed by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Photos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan MORE (D-N.Y.).
Following a call by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race MORE (R-Calif.) in early March to hold a hearing on the resolution, Pelosi promised there would be debate on some climate bill, but didn’t say which one.
Ocasio-Cortez herself has not made calls for her resolution to be marked up or brought to the floor. Instead her office is working on new piecemeal bills that would address specific policies laid out in the broader plan. Those bills aren’t expected until early next year, her staff told The Hill.
The climate fight has been decidedly partisan. And the Democrats on Wednesday were quick to bash Trump's intent to leave the Paris climate accord, which he announced as president in 2017.
Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonUS must not only lead in artificial intelligence, but also in its ethical application Our approach to schizophrenia is failing House passes bills to boost science competitiveness with China MORE (D-Texas), chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said Trump's decision to withdraw from that agreement "is both misguided and ill-advised."
"Rather than pretend that the human-induced climate change doesn't exist, we need to do all that we can to work to meet the goals of the Paris agreement," she said.
The select committee on climate change boasts a number of young freshman members, who used Wednesday's rollout to argue the importance of preserving the environment for the health of future generations.
Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), a 40-year-old former environmental activist, said Congress must "embrace the scientific consensus" that climate change "is driven by human activity" — and inaction by American policymakers "would be catastrophic."
Rep. Joseph Neguse (D), a 34-year-old representing Boulder, Colo., warned that Congress has "a very short runway to avoid very catastrophic consequences for our planet."
And Rep. Sean CastenSean CastenSchumer pledges climate action amid Democratic divide Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden urges climate action amid Ida devastation Advocates push White House to nominate energy regulator MORE (Ill.), a 47-year old former clean energy executive, accused Trump and Republicans of "ignoring the single most serious threat to the existence of human life on earth."
"From Normandy to the Cold War, American leadership has been about identifying long-term existential threats to the entire population, and then leading the rest of the world to mobilize around a shared set of goals and values," he said.
"That's what we need."