Pelosi: Climate panel is not just ‘an academic endeavor’

Select committee headed by Castor said to be readying recommendations for ‘major’ legislation in 2020

Castor's climate panel is to make recommendations for legislation in 2020.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Castor's climate panel is to make recommendations for legislation in 2020.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 6, 2019 at 4:00pm

Democrats will unveil major climate legislation in the spring after the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis releases a set of recommendations, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday.

Pelosi said House Democrats would follow the conclusions of the committee, which was established at the start of this Congress and has held more than a dozen hearings on climate change and its underpinning science, to draft what she said would be bipartisan legislation.

[Republican Study Committee eyes alternatives on climate and health care]

“That is the purpose of the select committee, not just to be an academic endeavor,” Pelosi told reporters, adding her conference would “shape something that is unifying on this subject.”

The speaker led a congressional delegation over the weekend to Madrid for international climate talks organized by the U.N. and sought Friday to cast Democrats as foils to President Donald Trump over climate change.

Democrats described climate change as a massive opportunity to create jobs and compete against foreign powers in specific industries, including transportation, which emits nearly one-third of domestic greenhouse gases.

Global competition

“We’re almost 30 percent of the problem,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said of that sector, a segment of which is concentrated in her state. “We’re not going to let China or India or any other country” dominate zero-emissions vehicles,” she said. “It’s a competitive issue, it’s a job and it’s our future generations.”

Trump began the process last month to formally withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, reached under the Obama administration. The U.S. can legally exit the treaty the day after Election Day.

“We have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it,” Pelosi said of the planet. “Young people, children in school, even in grade school, understand that,” she said. “Hopefully it will rise to the White House as well.”

A cluster of House Democrats, including Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., who chairs the select committee, went on the trip to Spain. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., was the only member of the Senate to attend.

“We intend to take bold, creative action to confront the climate crisis,” Castor said. “This presents an enormous opportunity for our country.”

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The group wore lapel pins Friday that read “We’re Still In.”

In a statement Wednesday, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., the ranking Republican on the climate panel, criticized the Paris deal.

“The point of the Paris Accord is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the agreement allows China to increase their emissions by another 50 percent,” Graves said. “That is not a reduction, it is not fair, and it does not help our global environment. The Paris Accord is a bad deal.”

The agreement does allow developing nations, like China and India, to emit greenhouse gases but not for perpetuity. Democrats say they invited Republicans from the select committee, including Graves, on the trip. 

Highest levels

The World Meteorological Organization said Nov. 25 that heat-trapping greenhouse gases reached an all-time high, hitting 407.8 parts per million, roughly 150 percent higher than pre-industrial levels measured in 1750.

Temperatures increase as greenhouse levels rise. 

“We know that the problem is only getting worse every day,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “More greenhouse gases, more climate events.”

His committee is considering legislation to decarbonize the entire U.S. economy by 2050.

“We would be very derelict as a nation to pretend that this is not reality,” Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said. “Our prayer is that the Senate will recognize that the House has taken some leadership.”