Energy & Environment

Two years after Trump’s Paris climate move, frustrated Democrats eye 2020

Democrats are facing a harsh reality check on the two-year anniversary of President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Despite passing historic climate legislation in the House this spring and states such as California stepping up to meet the emissions goals laid out in the Paris agreement, Democrats can’t effect change at the federal level with Republicans controlling the White House and the Senate.

And they’ve grown increasingly frustrated as Trump and GOP leaders have minimized the role of science and belittled calls for climate action.

{mosads}“There are a lot of Republicans who understand that climate denial will send their party into obsolescence, especially as the younger generation whose mind is completely made up about climate become more frequent voters,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on a call with reporters this week. 

“Unfortunately none of those Republicans are named [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.],” he added.

House Democrats in May approved the Climate Action Now Act, the first climate-focused bill to pass the lower chamber in nearly a decade. The bill would bind the Trump administration to the agreements made under the Paris climate accord and direct Trump to figure out how to meet its emissions standards. 

The same day, McConnell made it clear the bill’s future was bleak in the upper chamber, saying that “the ill-fated Paris deal will go nowhere here in the Senate.”

“Sen. McConnell has been wholly willing to back up the president’s assault on climate policy, and the handful of Republicans who are uncomfortable about it in the Senate are not yet willing to directly confront McConnell in order to force any of this legislation to the Senate floor,” Murphy said.

“Until Mitch McConnell gets real pressure from his caucus, which he isn’t today, then nothing is going to change in the short run,” he added. 

Some Senate Democrats are trying to raise that pressure.

{mossecondads}Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) plans to introduce a companion bill when Congress returns next week, dismissing as “highly reckless” Trump’s decision, exactly two years ago on Saturday, to pull out of the accord.

“The President’s intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement is highly reckless and unravels significant progress made to mitigate the effects of climate change,” Shaheen told The Hill in a statement.

“This legislation would help re-establish the United States’ commitment to combating climate change and reclaim our leadership on the world stage,” the statement said.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and a co-sponsor of the bill, said the U.S. cannot afford to wait for Trump to come around on climate change.

“The reality is that we do not have time to wait for President Trump and other climate deniers to come to their senses, we must instead work now in Congress to realize the changes needed to protect our planet for generations to come,” Carper said in a statement to The Hill. 

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), sponsor of the House’s bill, said Republicans are failing to do their jobs or offer a solution of their own.

“The Senate should act as soon as possible. If Republicans refuse to hold a vote, they should offer a serious alternative for addressing our climate crisis,” she said in a statement Friday. 

Even if Republicans were to introduce their own bill, it remains unclear whether Trump would sign it. 

While Congress has struggled to attack the issue, local jurisdictions and individuals have made strides to tackle the Paris emissions promise on their own.

In the past two years, eight states have passed bills to bolster their own carbon reduction goals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, increasing the amount of energy that must come from clean or renewable sources. 

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vowed to hold the state to the emissions standards set by the Paris accord. In the past year, California also became the second state to commit to reaching a 100 percent carbon neutral electric grid by a given year. Two other states have since followed suit.

But a Democratic president may be the only way to ensure environmental protections stand a chance in Washington, and the party’s White House hopefuls are pledging to support them. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke are among those who have released or plan to release policies to tackle climate change if they were to win the office.

Nearly all of the plans call for rejoining the Paris agreement on day one.

Green groups have also announced plans to put unprecedented resources into the 2020 race, including a goal of raising $1 million for the eventual Democratic nominee with a “Beat Trump Presidential Climate Unity Fund.”

“Our focus now is on making sure that we build a political coalition in this country such that no one gets elected president of the United States again who isn’t 100 percent committed to the issue of climate,” Murphy said.

Tags Chris Murphy Climate change Climate change denial Donald Trump Jay Inslee Jeanne Shaheen Joe Biden Kathy Castor Mitch McConnell Paris agreement Paris climate deal Tom Carper

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video