In 2007, shortly after Democrats took back the House of Representatives in the 2006 midterm elections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, meant to gather expert testimony and develop policy plans to address climate change. Until Republicans killed it in 2011, the select committee amassed an enormous body of knowledge, which it contributed to the 2007 energy bill, the 2009 Obama stimulus bill, and the ill-fated Waxman-Markey climate bill (which died in the Senate). In 2018, just before Democrats re-took the House, Pelosi proposed reconstituting the committee. In the wake of the election, climate change activists, led by newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, demanded that the new committee have teeth — that it be charged with developing a Green New Deal. The original sit-in at Pelosi’s office, where AOC drew scads of media attention by appearing after having been elected but before being sworn in, was in part about demanding a more robust committee. Activists eventually got dozens of lawmakers to sign on to the effort. In the end, though, Pelosi gave the new select committee a purely advisory role, with neither subpoena power nor a specific legislative mandate. After the initial hullabaloo, the select committee largely fell out of the headlines and got to work. The report weighs in at well over 500 pages, with hundreds of individual policy recommendations — even the bullet-pointed list goes on for four pages. I will not presume to try to summarize it. Instead, I will just lay out the basic structure, the twelve policy “pillars” identified, and then say a few things about the political landscape in which the report arrives. We now have as close to a definitive answer as can be provided in advance of the question, “How can we do this?” What remains, politically speaking, is the question of whether we’ll do it, i.e., the question of power. The overall goal of the recommendations is net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the US by “no later than” 2050, and negative emissions thereafter.
Vox 30th June 2020 read more »