WASHINGTON, DC, January 3, 2019 (ENS) – Climate change was front and center as California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was today re-elected to a second term as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Democrats took control of that branch of government from Republicans after the mid-term elections.
Pelosi previously served as Speaker from 2007 to 2011. First elected to the House for California in 1987, Pelosi represents California’s 12th congressional district, which consists of four-fifths of the city and county of San Francisco.
Speaker Pelosi lost no time in expressing her determination to put America back on track fighting climate change – a battle that President Donald Trump derailed, instead denying the facts of global warming and opening new public lands and waters to fossil fuel extraction.
“We must also face the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis – a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions,” said Pelosi in her acceptance speech.
“The American people understand the urgency. The people are ahead of the Congress. The Congress must join them,” Pelosi said from the speaker’s podium.
“That is why we have created the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future,” Pelosi said.
“This is a public health decision for clean air and clean water; an economic decision for America’s global preeminence in green technologies; a security decision to keep us safe; and a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation,” Pelosi declared.
“We have no illusions that our work will be easy, that all of us in this chamber will always agree. But let each of us pledge that when we disagree, we will respect each other and we will respect the truth,” said the new speaker.
But the new Select Committee does not go far enough for newly seated Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, and many activists who had proposed a Select Committee For A Green New Deal.
On her Twitter feed, Ocasio-Cortez defines a Green New Deal as “a wartime-level, just economic mobilization plan to get to 100% renewable energy ASAP.” Many have defined “ASAP” as within the next 10 years.
But the 15-member panel will not have legislative jurisdiction and shall not have authority to take legislative action on any bill or resolution.
“The sole authority of the Select Committee shall be to investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies, and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis which will honor our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet for future generations,” the bill states.
Pelosi did not agree to activist demands that she appoint to the committee only lawmakers who had never taken donations from the fossil fuel industry.
“Without a mandate to create a plan and a requirement that its members don’t take fossil fuel money, we are deeply concerned that this committee will be just another of the many committees we’ve seen failing our generation our entire lives,” Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash told Inside Climate News.
Pelosi selected Representative Kathy Castor of Florida to chair the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, who said, “We must act with urgency to reduce carbon pollution and we can do so by unleashing American ingenuity and creating clean energy jobs to power our future.”
Although the Senate is still in the hands of Republicans, some Senate Democrats back quick action on climate.
The new Democratic majority in the U.S. House will mark the “dawn of a new era” in fighting climate change, says U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
Along with achieving 100 percent clean energy within the next 20 years and laying down “markets for putting a price on carbon,” Markey’s climate action priorities include promoting energy efficiency, halting fossil fuel exports, and “ushering in offshore wind,” which Markey described as “the next frontier in clean energy.”
In 2008, Markey, then in the House, introduced a bill based on a report by the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which he chaired. That became the starting point for cap-and-trade legislation Markey co-sponsored with former Congressman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, that passed the House in 2009 but was never brought to the Senate floor for a vote.
Both houses of Congress will be under increasing pressure to protect the climate from voters, for whom the issue becomes more and more important with each devastating hurricane and wildfire.