A New Climate Bill Aims to Hold the United States to Its Promises

Because, no, President Trump cannot just ignore the Paris Agreement.

Florida Representative Kathy Castor greeting students at the first hearing of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Climate initiatives are finally making their way through Congress. The new Democrat-led House of Representatives has been busy reinstating critical committee hearings on climate and building momentum around a Green New Deal resolution. After two years of denial and delays, we welcome this 180-degree turn—and now we can add the Climate Action Now Act, or H.R. 9, to the reasons to be hopeful that meaningful climate action will be on its way soon. After the bill makes its way through relevant committees in the coming weeks, it will head to the floor for a vote. Here’s why we’re excited about H.R. 9.

Vive Paris!

The landmark 2015 signing of the Paris Agreement set significant carbon emissions reduction targets for each participating nation—all 195 of them. But soon after taking office, President Trump bowed out—to the chagrin of cities, states, and corporations nationwide. Though the United States can’t technically leave the agreement until after the 2020 election, for one of the world’s largest carbon emitters to backpedal on its commitment is hardly a show of good leadership. If passed, H.R. 9 would require our country to acknowledge its Paris commitment to reduce carbon pollution by about 27 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2025—and, more important, submit a plan to Congress on how we will get there.

Laying down the law.

The new congressional session began with a flurry of climate action, including a vote on the Green New Deal and nine additional climate resolutions introduced alongside H.R. 9. But the difference between those proposals and resolutions and H.R. 9 is critical: If passed, a bill, unlike a resolution, is enforceable as law.

Not with our money you don’t!

H.R. 9 explicitly bans federal funds from being “appropriated, obligated, or expended” to advance the United States’ withdrawal. Every roadblock helps.

The weight of numbers.

Last fall’s bombshell IPCC climate change report made clear how devastating an additional half-degree Celsius of warming could be. At 2 degrees of warming, the report’s authors predict that nations all over the world would face substantially more poverty, extreme heat, sea level rise, habitat loss, and drought than they would at 1.5 degrees. The Paris Agreement emphasized the importance of staying well below 2 degrees of warming, and H.R. 9 does the same. That’s especially good news for the communities most vulnerable to sea level rise, like those of the Marshall Islands, the Maldives, and many others throughout the Pacific.

Fortune favors the bold.

H.R. 9 mirrors the U.S. target specified in the Paris Agreement: to reduce carbon pollution by 26 to 28 percent. But politicians who are serious about fighting climate change shouldn’t get comfy with that figure. Like the Paris Agreement, H.R. 9 would require the country to up its emissions target every five years, in pace with developments in new technology and other factors.

The table is set. Dig in!

H.R. 9 states that the administration can use existing laws and regulations—such as the Clean Air Act and the Energy Policy Act—to meet our Paris targets. It’s a not-so-subtle hint to whoever wins the White House in 2020 that the tools (and authority) are already in place to pass the kind of binding climate action that the country, and the rest of the world, so desperately need.

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