Congressional Democrats Arrive at Madrid Climate Talks, Announce They Still Don't Have a Climate Plan

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks before COP 25 to share all that Democrats have (ahem, haven’t) done to combat the climate crisis.
Photo: Getty

International climate talks kicked off on Monday in Madrid, and a delegation of House Democrats showed up to tell the world how much they care about climate change. But they actually revealed, uh, how little action they’ve actually taken to appropriately address the severity of the crisis.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the U.S. Congressional delegation for the talks (known as COP25) on Monday, including people like Representative Kathy Castor of Florida who heads the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas who chairs the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. They were there to tell the world that despite a president who’s begun the formal process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, leaders on the state and city level are taking steps so that the U.S. stays on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and meet the targets set forth in the international agreement.

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“Our delegation is here to send a message that Congress’ commitment to take action on the climate crisis is ironclad,” Pelosi said during the event.

That’s great to hear, but the truth is that the Democratic-led House hasn’t done enough to tackle the climate crisis. Indeed, as Pelosi and her colleagues made clear Monday after a reporter asked, they don’t support a Green New Deal, which is the only bill currently put forth in Congress with enough vision to stave off climate chaos. I mean, c’mon, the youth, environmental groups, badass senators and representatives, and the American public want to see this type of transformative change. And Green New Deal proponents have begun building out a vision for that change with two recently released housing plans.

Yet more moderate Congress members refuse to seriously consider it. Instead, Castor announced that Democrats will be releasing a climate action plan. In March. That’s three months from now and more than a year after Democrats took back the House in the midterms.

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To be fair, the House did pass a bill around increasing energy efficiency and introduced another around energy infrastructure, but those are insufficient in addressing the gravity of the climate crisis. What about banning the construction of further fossil fuel infrastructure? Or fighting for a just transition for fossil fuel workers? Some of the Congressional delegation, such as Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, were sure to mention their recognition of vulnerable peoples, but recognizing is not enough. Not without appropriate urgent action. These are the types of proposals that’d fall under a true Green New Deal.

“This climate action plan will be an extraordinary opportunity to really begin to invest in the clean energy economy,” said Castor of the plan they are releasing in March.

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That’s good and all, and Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee—chaired by Representative Frank Pallone who was part of the COP25 delegation—proposed earlier this year for the U.S. to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions 2050. But it may be too late. The Green New Deal sets a target of 2030.

The United Nations sounded the alarm last week on how quickly world leaders must take action in a report noting that developed countries need to take the lead and drawdown their emissions faster than the rest of the world. With all their talk of urgency, these Democrats sure are willing to take their sweet time.

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

I mostly write about how environmental policy and climate change intersect with race and class though I occasionally write about animals, science, and art, too. We all need an escape, right?

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