May 2, 2019

U.S. House of Representatives to Vote on Climate Action Now Act: The State of the Paris Climate and Agreement and Climate Change Policy

Posted by Caitlin Bergstrom

This week, the House of Representatives is voting on H.R. 9, The Climate Action Now Act, which prevents the United States from withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement.  The bill will also require President Trump to develop and update annually a plan for the U.S. to meet the greenhouse gas emissions requirements established under the accord.  H.R. 9, which is cosponsored by 224 House Democrats and no Republicans, reflects a Democratic party campaign promise to prioritize climate change as an issue early in the new Congress.

A number of other steps have also been taken to bring climate change to the front and center of the policy debate, from the creation of a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to standing committees, such as the House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Science Committee, and House Foreign Relations Committee, holding nearly 30 climate-related hearings already on 2019.

While it’s unlikely the Republican controlled Senate will take up H.R. 9 (and President Trump has already stated that he would veto any version of the bill that passed both Chambers), the House Democrats have made it clear they see climate change as an existential threat to our nation. In a statement when the bill was announced, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said sweeping changes must be made to protect our economy, national security, and the health of our citizens and our environment, and remaining in the Paris agreement is only “step one.” This is not to say that there have not been bipartisan efforts to address climate change. Last month, Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK-R) and Joe Manchin (WV-D) wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post discussing the importance of enacting pragmatic policies not only to reduce carbon emissions, but to develop more clean energy technology solutions.

The Eiffel Tower was illuminated in green on 4 November 2016 to celebrate the ratification of the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit global temperature increases to no more than 2°C above preindustrial levels. The words in French translate to “Paris Agreement is made.” Credit: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

AGU applauds policymakers for taking the issue of climate change seriously and considers it important for the U.S. to stay engaged in international climate discussions. Former AGU president Margaret Leinen – who was present at the proceedings of the Paris Agreement – noted that by adopting an agreement to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, the signatory nations took a decisive step to reaffirm the real and serious effects of climate change and to lessen the most severe impacts on people’s lives and society at large. Since 2003, AGU has made clear its position on climate change, through the adoption of the “Human-Induced Climate Change Requires Urgent Action” position statement.

AGU will continue to inform and engage diverse audiences on climate science worldwide. Policies may change, but the science does not. To ensure economic prosperity and global health, we need a broad understanding of the societal consequences of a warming planet and honest and open communication of scientific evidence to the public and policy makers.

Climate change is one of society’s most challenging issues and it is important that the scientific community be a part of the discussions on Capitol Hill. AGU makes it easy to engage with your legislators with our science policy toolkits.