Combating climate change has long been a driving issue for Colorado Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse of Boulder. He ran on it; he was an early supporter of the Green New Deal; and he now serves on the House Select Committee on Climate Change, which held its first field hearing in Boulder this summer.
Still, he was “pleasantly surprised” to be asked to join a congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the U.N. Climate Change Summit, known as COP25, in Madrid, Spain this past week.
“It was an honor for me to go on this trip on behalf of my constituents,” Neguse said. Not every freshman gets to go on a congressional delegation with the Speaker of the House. And as the only Coloradan on the delegation, he added, it was important to have someone there to advocate for the state’s interests.
COP25 is a two-week gathering of international leaders, policymakers and activists, with the chief goal of hammering out how countries will meet their commitments under the Paris Climate Accord. President Donald Trump has started the process to withdraw the U.S. from that compact.
The congressional delegation attended the international summit for only a few days, arriving Sunday and departing Tuesday in time to get back for late afternoon votes and Wednesday’s impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, which Neguse sits on.
But it was long enough for the 15 member delegation to meet with leaders like U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, and, according to Neguse, to get its central message across: We’re still in it. The U.S. is still fighting climate change despite the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Neguse said what he focused on in his discussions was all the activity happening in states, counties and cities around the nation to combat climate change.
“A great example of that is what’s happening in Colorado,” Neguse said. “Seven cities in my congressional district alone have declared a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy. The ability to talk about what the city of Boulder and Breckinridge and Fort Collins and other counties are doing right now, and to signal to our international partners that we do have this commitment, I thought was incredibly important.”
Neguse enjoyed seeing the diversity of international voices that all agree urgent action is needed. “If there was one takeaway for me on this trip, it was that there really is a desperate need for United States’ leadership on the international stage with respect to this issue.”
Democratic Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois, another freshman on the trip, concurred. He recounted a conversation with a British colleague who told him that countries not in COP should be ostracized like misbehaving children. Casten said that won’t be the U.S.
“We don’t intend to be isolated on the naughty step,” Casten said.
On Friday, Neguse and Casten, along with Oregon Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, introduced a bill meant to prevent efforts to downplay climate change in federal research and publications. The measure would require a public explanation, citing scientific reasons, any time a political appointee removes references to climate change from scientific studies and press releases.
Speaker Pelosi expects the House to push forward on major climate legislation after the Select Committee reports in the spring.
“Congress is going to act upon the science in a legislative way with everyone at the table —whether it’s business and labor, enviros, faith-based organization, grassroots and the rest — to shape something that is unifying on this subject.”
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