House Democrats on Tuesday released a 547-page blueprint on how to combat climate change, in which they called for “environmental justice” to be put at the heart of environmental and climate change policy in the coming years.
“Environmental justice must be at the center of federal climate and environmental policy,” the massive outline, presented by the Democrats on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, says.
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In a glossary of the multitude of terms used in the sprawling document, Democrats define “environmental justice” as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, culture, national origin or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies to ensure that each person enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards; and equal access to any federal agency action on environmental justice issues in order to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, work, and recreate.”
The plan marks an attempt to outline the party’s strategy on climate change and distinguish it somewhat from the Green New Deal (GND) — an expansive far-left, multitrillion-dollar proposal championed by Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
The plan is somewhat less ambitious than the GND, calling for a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while the Green New Deal calls for the elimination of emissions by 2030. Similarly to the Green New Deal, it calls for regulations on everything from infrastructure to updated building codes to increase energy efficiency.
The new plan would also mandate that no new car emit greenhouse gases from 2035 on, with heavy trucks to follow in 2040. Democrats say it would save more than 60,000 lives and $8 trillion because of benefits related to both health and climate.
“Democrats know the climate crisis is the essential crisis of our time, threatening public health, jobs and the economy, national security and values,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at a press conference.
Calls for radical action to combat climate change dominated the Democratic agenda in 2019, but have been swept to the aside amid the coronavirus crisis and recent national debates about race and police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
There is a nod to Floyd in the document, which mentions him on the first page. There are also regular references to the question of race and how it intersects with the issue of climate.
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The document speaks a number of times as well about “environmental justice communities” which it defines as a community “with significant representation of communities of color, low-income communities, or tribal and Indigenous communities, that experiences or is at risk of experiencing higher or more adverse human health or environmental effects.”
The many aspects of the plan would likely pass in the Democratic-controlled House but would largely be dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate. But it’s a plan that is setting out what the Democratic agenda would look like should Democrats win the Senate and the White House in November.
Republicans dismissed it as a version of the Green New Deal, with the White House accusing Democrats of pushing “radical Green New Deal-like policies that would cripple America’s economy and crush the poorest communities across the globe.” Republicans on the panel had expressed anger that they had been excluded as Democrats released a partisan report.
“If I had known then what I know now, why did we go through this whole waste of money by putting a committee together, wasting money on staff, and do a dog and pony show with hearings? Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., told The Washington Examiner. “You don’t need us to do this. You certainly didn’t need to spend taxpayer funds to do it.”
Conservative groups also strongly opposed the blueprint. Myron Ebell, the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, called it a “ridiculously wasteful plan.”
“House Democrats claim there is a climate crisis that demands immediate action, yet their Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has dilly-dallied for over a year to produce a list of shopworn proposals that would benefit special interests at the expense of consumers and taxpayers,” he said.
The plan is similar to that proposed by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. His campaign praised the plan, which also has the backing of a number of environmental activist groups.
But the radical Sunrise Movement, which has long championed the Green New Deal, said it didn’t go far enough. “This plan is more ambitious than anything we have seen from Democratic leadership so far, but it still needs to go further to match the full scale of the crisis,” said Lauren Maunus, the group’s legislative manager.
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