The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, a bipartisan group formed at the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the 2018 midterm election, has been working on a plan to tackle rising emissions — the committee calls it a “climate action framework” — for the past year. It planned to release the framework at the end of this month. On Monday, committee chair Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat, said the release is being postponed due to COVID-19.
“As Congress focuses on the important mission of protecting Americans from the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided today to postpone the release of our climate action plan,” Castor wrote in a press release. “We will continue to work on clean energy solutions and a more resilient America — and look forward to releasing our plan when appropriate.”
The decision to delay the release of the framework, one of the only concerted efforts to mitigate the looming climate crisis in the House right now, is the clearest example yet of how COVID-19 has pushed climate policy to the backburner. Castor said she and her fellow committee members met with more than 1,000 stakeholders (community members, scientists, government officials, etc.) and reviewed more than 700 detailed comments before forming their climate policy recommendations.
One of those comments was authored by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the former presidential candidate and longtime climate hawk. In a December 16 letter to the committee, obtained by Grist, Inslee called climate change one of the greatest threats Americans have ever faced. “Confronting this challenge and realizing this opportunity must be our nation’s foremost priority,” he wrote. But Inslee has little time for climate action now; he’s busy battling the coronavirus in his state, which is ground zero for COVID-19 in the United States.
Some climate policy wonks have made the case that now is the time for ambitious climate legislation that creates jobs while decarbonizing the economy —a Green New Deal, if you will. But as Congress struggles to pass even a baseline coronavirus relief bill, it’s clear that climate policy has tumbled down lawmakers’ list of priorities for the time being.