with Paulina Firozi


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 planning to attend.

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 begins 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 (D-Fla.), a member of the delegation who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, told Power Up's Jacqueline Alemany. Some Republicans were invited to join the delegation, Castor said, but they all declined.

Or as Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), 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 (D-R.I.), one of the most outspoken senators on climate change, and three House committee leaders: Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.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. Back 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 GOP-controlled 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 it plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord in November 2020, the earliest date the United States can pull out.

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.

Speaking on Sunday ahead of the conference, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said efforts so far to stop global warming have been “utterly inadequate.”

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


— John F. Kerry launches a climate coalition: While Pelosi is in Spain, another Democratic bigwig has launched a new coalition called World War Zero with world leaders and celebrities looking to tackle climate change. “The name, World War Zero, is supposed to evoke both the national security threat posed by the earth’s warming and the type of wartime mobilization that Mr. Kerry argued would be needed to stop the rise in carbon emissions before 2050. The star-studded group is supposed to win over those skeptical of the policies that would be needed to accomplish that,” the New York Times reports.

  • Some names in the coalition: Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter; former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; former Ohio Gov. John Kasich; and celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting and Ashton Kutcher are among the 60 founding members.
  • To quote: "We’re going to try to reach millions of people, Americans and people in other parts of the world, in order to mobilize an army of people who are going to demand action now on climate change sufficient to meet the challenge,” Kerry told the Times in an interview.
  • “Unlikely allies coming together here”: “There's no group that has people as diverse as ours, in terms of nationality, age, gender, ideology, background, life experience. And all of these people have come together saying we've got to treat this like a war,” Kerry said in an interview with NBC News about his new group. “I mean, it has to require decision-making and organization and efforts that are just not taking place.”

— Perry’s smooth exit: The Energy secretary’s final weeks at the helm of the department were mired by his involvement in U.S. efforts in Ukraine energy policy. But by the standards by which other administration leaders have departed the Trump administration, Perry’s time “could count as a relative success,” Politico writes. “He hasn’t been fired yet, has he?” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). 

— A Black Friday full of climate protests: Climate change activists in cities all over the world poured into the streets to demonstrate during the popular day of shopping and sales. Near Paris, demonstrators gathered outside Amazon’s French headquarters. In New York, hundreds of protestors from Extinction Rebellion took to the streets. "Consumerism is destroying our planet," the group wrote in an Instagram post. "We do not have infinite resources, yet the system continues to persuade us all that we need to constantly buy more of everything. We are continuously sold cheap products at the expense of our environment, but enough is enough."

— Another radical way to save coral: British and Australian researchers are experimenting with placing loudspeakers underwater in dying coral reefs to play audio of healthy reefs. It’s one of numerous efforts by scientists who are trying to save coral reefs with radical measures as climate change harms the world’s coral. “The goal was to see whether they could lure back the diverse communities of fish that are essential to counteracting reef degradation,” The Post’s Derek Hawkins reports. “The results were promising, according to the researchers. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found twice as many fish flocked to the dead coral patches where healthy reef sounds were played compared with the patches where no sound was played.”


Coming Up

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee on clean air and nuclear Safety holds a hearing to examine the nomination of Robert J. Feitel, of Maryland, to be Inspector General, Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds hearings to examine an original bill to create a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force on Wednesday.
  • The House Natural Resources subcommittee on national Parks, forests, and public lands holds a legislative hearing on Wednesday. 


— An alien comet is coming toward us: An intersteller comet — formed on a distant star — is traveling through our solar system. “Every night, the comet grows bigger and brighter in the sky, expelling streams of gas and dust that may offer up clues to its history. On Dec. 8, it will make its nearest approach to Earth, offering researchers an up-close glimpse before it zooms back into the freezing, featureless void,” The Post’s Sarah Kaplan writes.

The comet 2I/Borisov, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope on Oct. 12, is believed to have arrived from another planetary system in our galaxy. (NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA))