1. Update
  2. Environment & Energy

New Congress Brings New Opportunities for Climate Agenda

By Milo Keller, January 3, 2019

The 116th Congress will have new opportunities to advance climate solutions. As we begin a new year, I’m reflecting on the biggest climate developments in 2018 and thinking about what comes next as we work toward an earth restored.

2018 was quite the year for FCNL’s Sustainable Energy and Environment Program. Two landmark climate reports were released, a bipartisan carbon tax was introduced in the House of Representatives, and a youth-led movement shifted the public debate on climate policy. Here’s a look back at what happened.

The Bad News:

  • Regulatory Rollbacks: The Trump administration pursued a variety of devastating environmental regulatory rollbacks in 2018. The administration gutted the Clean Power Plan, replacing it with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which is neither affordable nor clean. It rolled back methane waste prevention rules, clean car standards, and mercury and toxic air standards. It weakened protections of the sage grouse, an endangered species, to open millions of acres to oil drilling. And the administration redefined the EPA’s Waters of the United states classifications to apply to fewer bodies of water. All of these rollbacks were opposed by faith groups, including FCNL.
  • Strong Warnings from Scientists: Two landmark reports on climate change were published, and the outlook is grim. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the earth can withstand only 1.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise without catastrophic consequences. Until recently the benchmark was 2 degrees Celsius, and that .5 degree discrepancy makes a huge difference. The fourth National Climate Assessment also predicted climate change could cause more economic harm to the US than the 2008 recession did by 2100.
  • Natural Disasters Continue: Hurricane Florence devastated swaths of the East Coast, and my home state of California experienced a number of unprecedented and fatal wildfires. Scientists agree that climate change is making these extreme weather events more severe and frequent.

The Good News:

  • Bipartisan Climate Dialogue: FCNL continued its bipartisan climate conversation series in May, welcoming Reps. John Faso (NY-19) and Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) to the Quaker Welcome Center to discuss the issue.
  • Renewable Energy Tax Credits Enacted: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 was enacted on Feb, 9. The bill renewed the “orphaned” tax credits for renewable energy. These tax credits will spur innovation and energy efficiency, both of which are needed for progress on climate change.
  • Climate Solutions Caucus Grows: The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus grew to 90 members in the 115th Congress.
  • Carbon Taxes Gain Traction: The 115th Congress saw two unprecedented carbon tax proposals introduced in the House of Representatives. The Republican-only MARKET CHOICE Act and the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). Both bills would put us on track to outpace the emissions reductions the U.S. agreed to in the Paris climate agreement. While neither is perfect, they represent important steps towards bipartisan action on reducing emissions.
  • Midterms Bring Challenges, Opportunities: The midterm elections brought sweeping changes in political leadership. Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House of Representatives, while Republicans gained two in the Senate. FCNL is encouraged to see how many members of Congress made climate change an issue in their campaigns, and we are excited to welcome members with scientific and renewable energy backgrounds to Congress. The midterms, however, also resulted in the Climate Solutions Caucus losing more than half of its Republican members, including co-founder and co-chair Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL-26). We will continue to work with the caucus and look forward to helping it rebuild.
  • Energy for Bold Action: Activists, led by the Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), demonstrated in support of a bold climate plan known as the Green New Deal. While it is not yet a proposed piece of legislation, the plan they advocate for would decarbonize our economy and rapidly transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources over ten years. It would center economic and racial justice, prioritize massive investments into green technology, and reimpose financial and campaign finance regulations.

What a year! I am continually inspired by the commitment and passion of our climate advocates. Together we will continue our prophetic and powerful mission in the new Congress.

Milo Keller

  • Program Assistant, Sustainable Energy and Environment

As the Program Assistant for Sustainable Energy and Environment, Milo lobbies Congress for bipartisan solutions to climate change and renewable energy issues. He meets with members of Congress and their staff to promote FCNL’s environmental goals as well as writes policy responses and blog posts for FCNL. Additionally, he writes the newsletter “Inside the Greenhouse” with updates about FCNL’s environmental work, which is published each month.