Jun 15, 2019 | Updated: 11:54 AM EDT

House and Senate Battle Over Keeping the US in Paris Climate Accord

May 05, 2019 11:08 PM EDT


The Climate Action Now bill or H.R. 9, may be the first significant climate legislation to pass in a decade and would prohibit the climate science-denying Trump regime from using federal funds to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Trump called the accord "onerous" and "harsh" when he said two years ago that he would withdraw the United States from the agreement. This can't actually be done until November 2020. The bill also calls for the White House to put together a plan for the US to meet its pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The intent is to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius or 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational goal of just 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Several Republicans argued that Democrats should have strived for more bipartisan agreement on the bill. For instance, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan-a 17-term congressman who has served as chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and spent the Obama years crafting reactionary energy legislation-voted against H.R. 9 and asserted in an interview: "It's not bipartisan, they could have worked with us to actually get a bill that I think would have worked. It was just a little bit too far and there was no outreach to Republicans whatsoever."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican representative from Kentucky, said the bill would fail in the Senate because "middle-class Americans" oppose it, "So this futile gesture to handcuff the US economy through the ill-fated Paris deal will go nowhere here in the Senate." However, contrary to his claims of the opposition, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs showed in a poll last July that 68 percent of registered voters wanted the United States to stay with the Paris accord.

It's been obvious from the minute Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida introduced H.R. 9 that it stands no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled body or of getting Donald Trump's signature if it did pass. Instead, she says, it's a message bill about the kind of things Democrats will do if they win the Senate and White House in 2020, and a signal to the rest of the world that the US is not withdrawing from the effort to address climate change.

Although no Democrats broke ranks on the Castor bill, many on the left side of the party spectrum as well as climate hawks in various environmental advocacy groups-view H.R. 9 as weak: not bad, but not nearly bold enough. Some fear that this will be a substitute for what they consider to be more practical legislation. Most of these critics are backers of the Green New Deal, which proposes a complete and quick move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and includes a program of environmental and social justice.

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