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A New Climate Change Policy Framework Arrived in the 116th Congress

Recently, Representative Paul Tonko (NY), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change released his “Framework for Climate Action in the U.S. Congress” at the 2019 C2ES Climate Leadership Conference in Baltimore, MD.

Tonko created this framework as a means to recognize the effect of climate change and design a measurable policy action blueprint. The nine principles address climate change, and intend to maintain a strong American economy, create equality, and respect actions already taken to combat climate change. While the framework is not legislation, it will have a substantial impact on what becomes legislation. As the Subcommittee chairman, Tonko controls what bills come in and out of the subcommittee. These nine principles will control the discussion and agenda of the subcommittee, and all bills it considers must uphold the values of his framework.

Tonko’s climate policy principles include:
  1. Adopt science-based targets for greenhouse gas neutrality by mid-century
  2. A clean U.S. economy must be strong, competitive, and fair
  3. Support technological innovations, policy, and finance to make decarbonization cheaper
  4. Provide all Americans pathways of opportunities by addressing historic environmental injustices
  5. Protect low-income households from disproportionate costs
  6. Resiliency and adaptability of infrastructure is needed to withstand new climate realities
  7. Empower state, local, and tribal governments to act with flexibility and support from the federal government
  8. Federal climate policy should not penalize entities that have taken early climate action
  9. Federal climate policies need to be durable and predictable, while allowing regulators to responded to new developments
“Americans are living, and dying, in the path of unprecedented flooding, raging wildfires, and battering storms driven by Earth’s changing climate,” Tonko states in a letter prefacing the framework. “Regardless of the origins of our predicament, we have inherited these conditions. It falls to us to set aside past disagreements and rise together to meet this challenge… The principles outlined in this document are meant to provide a framework that moves the lines of our agreement forward and helps us build a comprehensive national climate action plan together.”

At the convening of the 116th Congress in January 2019, democratic leadership renamed the Subcommittee on Environment to the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. They included “climate change” in the name to demonstrate its jurisdiction and commitment to addressing the growing concern for the issue.

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