House Speaker

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - DINO GRANDONI [email protected]­

Nancy Pelosi is at­tend­ing the U.N. cli­mate con­fer­ence in Democrats’ most re­cent ef­fort to keep the Paris ac­cord alive.

Pres­i­dent Trump isn’t go­ing to Spain this week for a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change con­fer­ence. That isn’t a sur­prise, given ev­ery­thing he’s said and done when it comes to global warm­ing.

Here’s some­thing slightly more un­ex­pected: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.), in the midst of a rapidly mov­ing im­peach­ment in­quiry into the pres­i­dent, is at­tend­ing.

Com­ing off the long Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day, Pelosi is lead­ing a del­e­ga­tion of 14 other con­gres­sional Democrats to Madrid for the 2019 United Na­tions Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence — more com­monly known as COP25. The event be­gan Mon­day.

The transat­lantic trip is the lat­est sign that Democrats are pre­par­ing for the day Trump is no longer pres­i­dent — when the United States may once again start push­ing other na­tions to cut their cli­mate-warm­ing emissions.

The trip also ex­em­pli­fies what Pelosi has re­ferred to as her party’s abil­ity to “walk and chew gum at the same time” — that is, si­mul­ta­ne­ously weigh im­peach­ing the pres­i­dent while also deal­ing with other press­ing na­tional pri­or­i­ties, such as cli­mate change.

“The U.S. is still com­mit­ted to cli­mate ac­tion, not­with­stand­ing Trump,” Rep. Kathy Cas­tor (DFla.), a mem­ber of the del­e­ga­tion who chairs the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on the Cli­mate Cri­sis, told The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Jac­que­line Ale­many. Some Repub­li­cans were in­vited to join the del­e­ga­tion, Cas­tor said, but they all de­clined.

Or as Rep. Sean Cas­ten (DIll.), an­other del­e­ga­tion mem­ber, ex­plained in a video on Twit­ter, the group will be there “to rep­re­sent the United States Congress and to send a clear mes­sage that we un­der­stand the ex­is­ten­tial threat that is cli­mate change.”

The pur­pose of the Madrid meet­ing is to put the fi­nal touches on the rules gov­ern­ing the 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord. Protests in Chile, where the con­fer­ence was orig­i­nally sched­uled ear­lier this fall, forced the United Na­tions to move the pro­ceed­ings to the Span­ish cap­i­tal.

Also trav­el­ing with Pelosi are Sen. Shel­don White­house (DR.I.), one of the most out­spo­ken sen­a­tors on cli­mate change, and three House com­mit­tee lead­ers: En­ergy and Com­merce Chair­man Frank Pal­lone Jr. (DN. J.), Sci­ence Chair Ed­die Ber­nice Johnson (D-tex.) and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Chair Raúl M. Gri­jalva (D-ariz.).

The trip is just the most re­cent ef­fort by House Democrats to keep alive the Paris cli­mate ac­cord while Trump is in of­fice. In May, Pelosi led House Democrats to pass a bill com­pelling Trump to stay in the agree­ment, but the mea­sure was not taken up by the GOP­con­trolled Se­nate.

The Democrats’ diplo­matic ef­fort comes as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is send­ing the ex­act op­po­site mes­sage. Last month, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cially no­ti­fied the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that it plans to with­draw from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord in Novem­ber 2020, the ear­li­est date the United States can pull out.

“By com­ing here, we want to say to ev­ery­one, ‘We’re still in,’ ” Pelosi said in a speech in Madrid on Mon­day. “The United States is still in.”

Trump has long claimed the Paris agree­ment puts too little of the bur­den of re­duc­ing emissions on China and other de­vel­op­ing na­tions. He is send­ing a small group of ca­reer diplo­mats, but no po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees, to Madrid, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg News.

Here’s why what Pelosi, cur­rently the coun­try’s most pow­er­ful Demo­crat, says and does now mat­ters: Un­der the 2015 ac­cord, na­tions set vol­un­tary, non­bind­ing pledges to re­duce green­house gas emissions. Even though na­tions will not be pun­ished for fail­ing to meet those tar­gets, the orig­i­nal idea be­hind the ac­cord was that, over time, the United States would wield its soft power to pres­sure other na­tions to do so.

The mes­sage Pelosi is send­ing to the rest of the world with her trip is that if her party re­takes the White House next year, the United States will once again take meet­ing emissions tar­gets se­ri­ously.

“On be­half of the U.S. Congress, I am proud to travel to COP25 to reaf­firm the com­mit­ment of the Amer­i­can peo­ple to com­bat­ing the cli­mate cri­sis,” Pelosi said in a state­ment.

Almost all Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are on the same page, promising to reen­ter the Paris cli­mate ac­cord as soon as they get into the White House. “On day one, I will get us back into the in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change agree­ment,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-minn.) said dur­ing a Demo­cratic de­bate in Septem­ber.

But no matter who wins the 2020 race, the chal­lenge of stop­ping dan­ger­ous, run­away cli­mate change will be mon­u­men­tal.

Ac­cord­ing to a bleak U.N. re­port is­sued ahead of the cli­mate con­fer­ence, only un­prece­dented cuts in car­bon emissions will give the world a chance to avoid the worst ef­fects of cli­mate change.

U.N. Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral An­tónio Guter­res said be­fore the con­fer­ence that ef­forts so far to stop global warm­ing have been “ut­terly in­ad­e­quate.”

“The point of no re­turn is no longer over the hori­zon,” Guter­res said Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press. “It is in sight and hurtling to­ward us.”

“By com­ing here, we want to say to ev­ery­one, ‘We’re still in.’ The United States is still in.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

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