Pelosi Brings Climate Leadership to the House

By passing the Climate Action Now Act, the House has signaled that it will not allow Washington to continue to ignore the greatest environmental crisis of our generation—and future generations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a January press conference
Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

By passing the Climate Action Now Act, the House has signaled that it will not allow Washington to continue to ignore the greatest environmental crisis of our generation—and future generations.

It didn’t take Nancy Pelosi long to bring to the U.S. House of Representatives the assertive new leadership we need to confront the growing dangers and rising costs of climate change.

Since she took up the gavel as Speaker of the House in January, the body has held more than three dozen hearings on the issue, compared with just a handful in the previous decade. Yet another, slated for Thursday, will probe ways to help make our communities more resilient against the kinds of devastating wildfires that have caused record death and destruction in California.

And just last week, Pelosi led the House in passing a bill meant to press President Trump to keep the promise the United States made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Its passage in a 231–190 vote, with support from 228 Democrats and 3 Republicans, marked the first time since June 2009 Congress has lifted a finger to protect our country from the rising costs and mounting dangers of global climate change.

The problem didn’t go on recess; congressional leadership went into retreat. In the House, at least, Pelosi has turned that around.

The Climate Action Now Act would prohibit federal spending on Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. participation from the Paris accord. It would require him, instead, to show how we’ll honor our part of the agreement.

The bill’s passage in the House sends a powerful message to our global partners about U.S. support for the Paris accord; to investors about the confidence we have, as a nation, in the clean energy economy of tomorrow; and to our children, who deserve to know we won’t abandon them to the ravages of climate catastrophe.

Washington, though, has become a tale of two cities. While the House faces up to the central environmental challenge of our time, the White House and the Republican-controlled Senate refuse to so much as acknowledge the problem.

To listen to Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, you’d never know seas are rising; deserts are spreading; and floods are washing out billions of dollars’ worth of heartland livestock, crops, and farms. Or that we’re losing entire species faster than at any other time since the dinosaurs disappeared.

Ignoring these threats is reckless. It’s at odds with what the science is telling us and what we’re seeing out our own back doors. It runs counter to the will of the American people, seven in ten of whom expect our government to act to protect the public from climate hazard and harm while we’ve still got time.

And it’s out of sync with what’s happening on the ground. In San Francisco and across the country, more than 3,750 leaders of states, cities, businesses, colleges, faith groups, and others—representing every state and more than half the U.S. economy—are working to do their part to meet the commitment the United States made in Paris: to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by about 27 percent, as compared with 2005 levels.

Climate change is a global problem. It requires a global fix. That’s what the world recognized through the Paris Agreement—for the first time ever, the United States, China, India, and every other country put plans on the table to cut or curb the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving climate chaos.

Why on earth would we walk away from that and leave our kids to pay the price?

In trying to do precisely that, Trump seeks to anchor our future in the dirty fuels of the past, put polluter profits first, and put the rest of us at risk.

Fortunately, the Paris agreement imposes a four-year timeline for withdrawal. Trump’s bombast to the contrary, we’re still party to the accord until at least November 4, 2020. U.S. representatives still participate in talks and proceedings under the agreement, including work with our Chinese counterparts to develop important transparency and reporting requirements to be put in place next year.

The recent vote on the Climate Action Now Act showed the country, and the world, where the People’s House stands on the promise we made at Paris. That's a promise we made to our children. It’s a promise we’re going to keep.