December 4, 2019
Early December marks the beginning of the COP25 Climate Summit in Madrid, where Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made a public statement that the US will abide by the Paris Climate Accord targets: “The United States is still in,” she said, despite the Trump Administration’s recent withdrawal. Even though the US is caught in mixed messaging at the international level, Americans do overwhelmingly seem to be in support of climate action, especially democrats, according to a recent Pew Research study. Congressional Democrats are making their position known by introducing several bills that acknowledge the need for urgent climate action:
1. Climate Action Now Act – This bill passed in the Democratically controlled House of Representatives 231-190. The bill requires the President to create a plan for the US to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025 (thus meeting the previously agreed upon nationally determined contribution set by the Paris Agreement). It also has a provision in the bill requiring studies to be conducted on how a Paris withdrawal would impact US economic competitiveness. This bill has been read twice in the Senate but has seen no further action. Along with Speaker Pelosi, a delegation of democratic members of the House are representing the U.S. at COP25.
2. Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act – This recent bill is aimed at providing tax incentives for renewable energy production and storage. The author of the bill, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), is the Chairman of the Ways and Means Select Revenue Subcommittee. He calls the draft “a comprehensive approach to addressing the threat of climate change through our tax code.” The legislation is undoubtedly a nod to bills that were introduced earlier this year and remain untouched: the Clean Energy for America Act and the Renewable Energy Extension Act, both seeking tax incentives for clean energy in the face of solar tax credits starting to expire at the end of 2019.
3. 100% Clean Economy Act – Rep. McEachin (D-VA) finally introduced this highly anticipated bill before the Thanksgiving holiday. McEachin has over 150 co-sponsors and strong endorsements from a variety of environmental non-profit groups including Sierra Club, NRDC, and EDF, as well as a strong coalition of other public health and energy organizations. The bill focuses on growing clean energy jobs and infrastructure, providing support for workers in transition from changing economic sectors, taxing carbon, and bolstering environmental resiliency.
The first week of December, the House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee will hold a hearing on economy-wide decarbonization. The emphasis of the hearing will likely be the carbon tax issue, a necessary provision for a clean energy transition. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a good primer on the difference between the two major carbon tax policies: cap-and-trade and direct taxation. While the carbon tax discussion is still in its nascency, congressional democrats’ position on the matter is clear: we need to do something, now.
Although the likelihood of any of these measures passing both the House and Senate is extremely low, their existence is significant. Their existence implies that people are talking about climate change, clean energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability. Their existence implies that there is something tangible you can ask your local representatives to champion. Their existence reinforces the democratic stance on climate issues, and with any luck, their existence will be the starting point for negotiations, more stakeholder engagement, and future legislative action.
Kasia Kornecki is an intern for AGU’s Public Affairs team. She is a Ph.D. chemist and is interested in policy related to climate, clean energy, and sustainability.