Newly-formed House climate panel holds first hearing

A new committee formed by House Democrats to address climate change held its first hearing on Thursday, welcoming young leaders in the Green movement. 

The first hearing of the long-awaited committee championed by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils virus plan and urges patience | Fauci says it's 'liberating' working under Biden | House to move quickly on COVID-19 relief Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 On The Money: Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief | Biden faces backlash over debt | 900,000 more Americans file for unemployment benefits MORE (D-Calif.), called the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, was intended to provide a platform for those most affected by climate change to make the case for action. To mark its first hearing, the panel welcomed a group of young climate activists who testified about their experiences with climate change.

“What is necessary to address the climate crisis is to stop carbon pollution from accumulating in the atmosphere. That requires action. Urgent action. Ambitious action,” said Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorBiden recommits US to Paris climate accord OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports Democrats eye action on range of climate bills MORE (D-Fla.), who chairs the panel.


Yet the meeting largely highlighted the division between the parties.

As Democrats pressed for the need for a swift response, some Republican lawmakers instead stressed the need for effective solutions that balance the economic activity driven by polluting industries.

Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesFriends and colleagues mourn loss of Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow dies of COVID-19 House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit MORE (R-La.), the ranking member on the panel, pushed the largely college-aged witnesses for solutions on how they would craft policy that would balance concern for the environment with existing local economies that rely in some way on fossil fuels.

Other Republican members from states with large coal and oil and gas industries spoke up for those sectors.

“I have seen the devastation that a top-down, one-size-fits all government approach can cause. We saw this with the war on coal from the Obama administration. The decimation of the coal industry in our state ravished our economy,” said Rep. Carol MillerCarol Devine MillerREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night Partial disengagement based on democratic characteristics: A new era of US-China economic relations MORE (R-W.Va.). “It created great hopelessness and ultimately lead to the rise in our opioid crisis."


The hearing left unanswered many questions as to what sort of climate policies might come out of the committee.

A number of lawmakers, including some House Democrats, have questioned the legitimacy of the committee, given its lack of subpoena power and legislation-writing authority.

Witnesses included Aji Piper, a plaintiff in Juliana v. United States, a case that asserts the government violated young people’s rights by allowing activities that were harmful to the climate. Lindsay Cooper, a policy analyst with Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-La.), and climate activists Chris Suggs and Melody Zhang also testified.

Several focused on the disproportionate impact climate change has on poor communities and communities of color.

Suggs, whose hometown of Kinston, N.C., has repeatedly flooded after hurricanes, said, “For me, the saddest thing about these recurring natural disasters that are exacerbated by climate change is that the communities that are most affected, like mine, are often the communities that have already been hit the hardest by all of society’s other problems.”