House Democrats showed their enthusiasm for the upcoming Paris climate talks on Thursday, and condemned Republicans who are wary of the landmark summit.
At a forum hosted by House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats, along with members of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), lawmakers heard from foreign governments on the climate challenges their countries are facing and their expectations for the United Nations talks in December.
“It’s a very frustrating time in this Congress right now, knowing what we could do and not being able to do it because there are so many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle who deny the fact of climate change,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
“It could be one of the most exciting times and it’s a great opportunity for this Congress to actually take some positive steps.”
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) echoed those sentiments and said Congress needs to figure out which environmental policies work and how to get all members on board.
“We are real split in the Congress,” she said. “Well, let’s put it this way, they’re [Republicans] looking in the rearview mirror and think they see the future.”
With less than two weeks until negotiations start for a global climate pact, the GOP has expressed doubt that the Obama administration would get a passable deal. They claim Obama wants an agreement that will hurt business and is on shaky legal ground.
Senators introduced a nonbinding resolution Thursday that calls for the upper chamber to approve of any U.N.-negotiated climate deal. The Obama administration has insisted that the GOP-controlled Congress would not need to ratify the deal because it won’t be a formal treaty.
“The United States has always provided leadership when the world was facing big challenges. Climate change is one of those challenges,” said Kitty van der Heijden, ambassador for sustainable development of the Netherlands, on Thursday.
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) said he wanted to “reassure” the ambassadors that the United States remains committed to the negotiations.
“With the approach of these critical negotiations in Paris ... it seems like to an outsider, as a congressional body, we appear to be paralyzed on the issue,” he said. “Republicans in Congress are out of step with our nation and in the passing week, they became more out of step.”
Cartwright, vice chairman of the SEEC, said the results of the 2016 presidential election would not change any rules or plans put forth by the Obama administration, such as the Clean Power Plan.
“Every presidential candidate in one particular party has publicly expressed skepticism about climate,” he said. “Let me reassure you that if one of these Republicans is elected president, things won’t change over night.”