Democratic lawmakers, including six presidential candidates, have unveiled a Congressional resolution declaring a climate change emergency to try and kick start sweeping reforms as the US falls behind other developed countries in trying to halt a dangerous rise in temperatures.
The non-binding resolution was introduced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Earl Blumenauer and Senator Bernie Sanders.
The resolution calls for “national, social, industrial and economic mobilisation” to “halt, mitigate and prepare for the climate emergency and restore the climate for future generations.”
“This is a political crisis of inaction. It is going to take political will, political courage to treat this as an issue with the urgency that it needs,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters on Tuesday.
No vote has yet been scheduled on the resolution, which has 12 sponsors in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Six in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Separately, many Democrats have supported the Green New Deal Platform, which was also co-sponsored by Ocasia-Cortez, which calls for the rapid restructuring of the fossil fuel dependent US economy in an effort to stimulate jobs in new more environmentally friendly industries.
The move by Democratic lawmakers follows a warning from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate that without drastic action to reduce carbon emissions the earth will warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius in less than 12 years.
US Falls Behind Developed World
But under Donald Trump’s administration, the US has fallen behind most other industrialised nations in reducing greenhouse gases and protecting the environment.
New analysis from the Rhodium Group, a New York-based economic research firm, found that less than half of the pollution reductions it promised to implement in past climate agreements have been achieved.
However, some Congressional Republicans are beginning to get behind what they see as “market-based” approaches to switch to green technology and protect the environment.
In May Britain’s parliament declared a symbolic climate emergency after weeks of protests by Extinction Rebellion in London, although the UK has so-far made good progress in phasing out fossil fuel burning power stations, it has been criticised for doing little else.
16 other countries have also declared a climate emergency, according to the Climate Mobilisation Group, although this has not yet resulted in any concrete action.
But the truth is that without a change in the political mood in Washington, not much is likely to change in terms of US climate policy. Even if this latest Democratic Resolution was signed by the president, it would not force any action on climate change. Although several of the Democrats running for president in 2020 have said that they are committed to cutting emissions.
Environmental Setbacks in the US Under Trump
Any Democrat that does get into the White House, will certainly have their work cut out rolling back what the Trump administration has already done in reversing environmental protections.
In June 2017, Trump announced that he would pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, claiming that the targets set in Paris to limit global warming to 2C unfairly disadvantaged jobs and factories in the US.
In December 2017, Trump slashed the size of two national monuments in Utah, in effect eliminating the protection of public land, deemed of vital environmental and cultural importance, to allow more mining and development, which is already happening. He also removed provisions from the Endangered Species Act, putting vulnerable plant and animal species in the US under more danger.
In September 2018, trump repealed rules to restrict methane leaks from oil and gas companies on public and tribal land. The Department of the Interior argued that attempts to capture methane were unnecessarily burdensome on the private sector.
He is also in the process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan, introduced under President Obama to encourage the US electricity generating sector to move towards natural gas and renewable power production.
Plans are underway to remove protections from millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of streams, which is predicted to increase pollution of drinking water and harm wildlife.
Photo: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat New York)