Dec 28, 2018

New House committee aims at climate "crisis"

Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that the climate panel she's setting up as Democrats assume House control will be called the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and confirmed that Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) will chair the select committee. Other details of its jurisdiction, makeup and operations remain outstanding.

Why it matters: The "crisis" name is a clear nod to the mounting scientific findings about the ongoing and expected harms that will unfold without steep worldwide emissions cuts.

  • That includes a major October report from a U.N. science body that explored the consequences of current warming, and allowing global temperatures to rise 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, and higher above preindustrial levels.
  • Holding the rise to 1.5°C would basically require worldwide CO2 emissions to decline by 45% by 2030, relative to 2010 levels, and reach net zero by mid-century, the study found.

Where it stands: Pelosi has been under pressure from youth-led climate activists aligned with progressive representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to establish a "Select Committee for a Green New Deal."

  • Ocasio-Cortez and the activists envision a panel with substantial investigative powers that would also craft a detailed draft legislative proposal ready for launch in 2020.
  • Their goals include moving to 100% renewable electricity and job guarantees for people working in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

But, but, but: House Democratic leaders signaled a week ago that the select committee would not be granted subpoena power.

  • That prompted criticism and pushback from the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats — two groups pushing for a more powerful select committee — and Ocasio-Cortez's office.
  • Castor told E&E News earlier this month that Green New Deal advocates have some "terrific ideas," but added, "that's not going to be our sole focus."
  • Pelosi's office declined comment Friday when asked whether they're reconsidering the question of subpoena power.

The big picture: The panel's formation is part of Democrats' and climate advocates' broader preparations to push for aggressive moves to cut emissions if they regain control of the White House and perhaps the Senate in 2020.

Michael Bloomberg, in an interview with NBC, called for Democratic White House hopefuls to offer robust proposals.

  • "I don't know whether I'm going to run or not, but I will be out there demanding that anybody that's running has a plan. And I want to hear the plan, and I want everybody to look at it and say whether it's doable," he said in an interview slated to air Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press.

What they're saying: "This committee will be critical to the entire Congress’s mission to respond to the urgency of this threat, while creating the good-paying, green jobs of the future," Pelosi said in a statement.

The League of Conservation Voters, a political advocacy group with close ties to the Democratic establishment, praised the selection of Castor, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee who has a 93% lifetime score in the group's rankings.

An earlier iteration of the committee in place when Democrats last controlled the House from 2007 to 2011 was called the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

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