Opinion

Climate change solutions can’t wait for the politics to catch up

New Democrat Coalition pushes for bills that have bipartisan support and can make a difference

Climate change youth activists demonstrate at the Supreme Court on Sept. 18. Solutions to the climate crisis must not get caught up in partisan battles, New Democrat Coalition Chairman Derek Kilmer writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — In the Pacific Northwest, we have a sense of urgency about addressing climate change. That urgency is driven, in part, by the fact that we are already seeing its impacts.

Where I’m from, we have four coastal tribes that are trying to move to higher ground due to rising sea levels and more severe storms. Catastrophic wildfires threaten the health and safety of communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. And our region’s largest employer — the Department of Defense — identifies climate change as a “threat multiplier” that makes our world less safe.

This shouldn’t be surprising. We’ve seen decades of scientific evidence that climate change will have devastating environmental, economic, public health and national security consequences.

Climate change is real, and it requires bold action.

Sadly, that commitment to science and that sense of urgency have been absent from the Trump administration. While President Barack Obama took significant steps to step up to this challenge, President Donald Trump — immediately upon taking office — began rolling back those policies. He sought to remove America from the Paris climate agreement. He’s repealed efforts to reduce carbon emissions from power plants and automobile tailpipes.

These actions are wrongheaded. To protect our communities, our national security and our economic interests, we have a moral obligation to act.

The scientific consensus is that we need to achieve the critical goal of economy-wide, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That means we need to catch up to our global peers and competitors. And it means we need to build a politically resilient roadmap that outlasts election cycles.

I serve as the chair of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of over 100 forward-looking House Democrats who all share a commitment to developing durable policy solutions to our most pressing issues. I’m proud that our coalition created a new Climate Change Task Force to develop an ambitious and actionable policy strategy to address the threat of climate change.

Our agenda is grounded in three main principles:

1. Combating climate change requires global action

America should be leading the way in combating climate change — not sitting on the sidelines. That’s why, among other strategies, our coalition endorsed the Climate Action Now Act to recommit to the Paris climate accord.

2. Transitioning to a climate-forward economy represents an opportunity to mobilize our economy and create high quality jobs

Other nations have recognized that combating climate change can lead to new innovations, industries and jobs. The United States should too. What’s more, we should ensure federal energy and technology policies enable our country to leverage every decarbonization tool available to reach our goals.

Among other strategies, our agenda focuses on clean-energy innovation. We’ve endorsed bills to increase federal research and encourage the development and adoption of green innovation.

3. Enacting a climate-forward agenda requires investing in communities, resilience and relief

We cannot leave frontline communities behind. The House has already passed three pieces of legislation to expand research and innovation to understand and address ocean acidification and coastal community vulnerabilities. Additionally, we must empower workers and communities to navigate economic change — not to be victims of it.

In September, we saw marches all across our nation urging leaders to ‘do something.’ These young activists made a powerful statement. Now, leaders in D.C. need to make real progress.

While D.C. currently has divided government, which has been our reality for nearly a decade, we cannot wait. With each passing day, as more greenhouse gases are emitted into our atmosphere, this crisis becomes more difficult to combat. We cannot let solutions get caught up in partisan battles or wait until Democrats hold all levers of power. We need to make progress now.

That’s why the New Democrat Coalition has endorsed bills that have bipartisan support in the House and Senate and can make a difference today.

Our coalition’s bill endorsements and policy roadmap are just the beginning. We urge both chambers of Congress to move this suite of bills so we can break the logjam and begin to address climate change with the urgency it demands. Communities in my region and around our planet can’t wait.

Rep. Derek Kilmer is a Democrat representing Washington’s 6th District. He serves as chairman of the New Democrat Coalition.

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