Tampa Dem. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor speaking to Kathy Baughman McLeod and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on Nov. 10 (screenshot photo taken by Mitch Perry)
Speaking at the U.N. Climate Change Conference on Thursday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Kathy Castor said there is more work to be done, but recent climate change legislation signed by President Joe Biden allows the United States to participate at a higher level on the global stage when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The conference, known as COP27, is in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.
“We come to this COP not just with talk, but with real concrete action out of the U.S. Congress,” Castor, a Democrat, said during a panel discussion inside the ‘Resilience Hub’ at COP 27, where she was joined by Pelosi to discuss the Inflation Reduction Act. That law devotes $369 billion to climate and energy-related funding and includes provisions such as tax breaks for electric vehicles and rooftop solar systems, rebates for efficient appliances and home upgrades and incentives in solar, wind and clean hydrogen.
According to the White House, the legislation will reduce a gigaton (a billion metric tons) of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and position the U.S. to meet Biden’s goals of cutting climate pollution in half by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
Pelosi said that climate change is a national security issue.
“We’re told by national security experts that the competition for habitat and resources can cause conflict and we have to avoid that,” Pelosi said. “And it’s a moral issue as we know for the children to pass this planet on to future generations.”
Castor has served as chair of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis since January 2019. She was appointed to that newly created committee by Pelosi after the Democrats took back the House of Representatives in the midterm election of 2018.
However, with the possibility that the GOP will take back the House once all of the ballots for the 2022 election are counted over the next week or so, Castor says she expects the committee to be shut down.
“It’s quite likely (that) for some reason the GOP ekes out control of the House of Representatives, they will nix the climate committee,” she said. “They have not really been partners in tackling the climate crisis and it’s inexplicable, because the world’s top scientists tell us that we’re running out of time.”
The Inflation Reduction Act was passed in August and signed by President Biden on a party-line vote in both the House and Senate, with no Republicans supporting it. The Phoenix reported earlier this week that congressional Republicans have sent “strong signals” that they would like to strip climate funding passed this year if they were to take control of Congress.
Pelosi said it was difficult to predict how the results from the midterm election would affect U.S. actions on climate.
“We’ve had a, shall we say, a disagreement on the subject,” she said. “When Kathy had her bill on the floor, our (Republican) colleagues said, ‘why are we having this discussion? There is no climate crisis. It’s all a hoax.’ We have to get over that.”
Castor said that tax credits are “front and center” in the Inflation Reduction Act to encourage the private sector to develop technologies in wind, solar and battery storage and ultimately transfer those technologies to vulnerable nations around the world.
“Africa needs to modernize and develop and there’s a pathway and a road where they can go to cheaper but more dangerous and destructive coal and gas, or we can pivot to help provide sustainable clean energy and clean energy jobs,” she said, adding that the legislation gives “resources to frontline and environmental justice communities, an important roadmap that can be replicated as we expand technology and financing to the rest of the developing world.”
In addition to Castor and Pelosi, there are 12 other Democratic members of the congressional delegation in Sharm El-Sheikh this month at the climate conference, representing districts in Texas, Oregon, Illinois, New York and California. A group of Republican lawmakers arrived separately on Thursday and will address the conference on Friday, Reuters reports.
There are also some Florida environmentalists at COP 27, including K.C. Schulberg, a waterkeeper from Collier County (who is issuing daily broadcasts from COP27 on YouTube), Solemi Hernandez, a Naples resident and the Southeast regional coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Dr. Ankush K. Bansal, the co-chair of Florida Clinicians for Climate Action.
COP 27 is the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is set to run through Nov. 18. The conference on climate change has taken place annually since 1995.
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