US House backs Paris accord in first climate bill passed in years

Democrats say they're sending signal to world that Americans support Paris agreement regardless of Trump's decisions.

    Protesters gather outside the White House in Washington, DC to protest President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris climate change accord [File: Susan Walsh/AP Photo]
    Protesters gather outside the White House in Washington, DC to protest President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris climate change accord [File: Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

    The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed its first climate change bill in nearly a decade, voting 231-190 to require the Trump administration to keep the United States as a party to the Paris Climate Agreement.

    The Climate Action Now Act would require President Donald Trump to develop a plan for the US to meet the goals it committed to in the Paris agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide and block federal funds from being used to advance the formal US withdrawal from the pact.

    Trump has stood by his 2017 decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 climate accord and has been dismissive of regulations aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

    The bill, which passed as expected along party lines, with three Republicans backing the measure, was meant to signal to the international community that many Americans support the Paris agreement regardless of Trump's decision to abandon it. 

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    "Today, we sent a message to the president, to the American people and to the world that we recognise the seriousness of the climate crisis and that we intend to do our part to address it. Today, we sent the message: we are still in," said Congressman Frank Pallone, chair of the House energy committee.

    But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will not take up the legislation, dismissing the bill as "political theatre" by Democrats. 

    Trump pledged in 2017 to withdraw from the Paris agreement as soon as 2020. It was a major blow to worldwide efforts to combat global warming, and distanced the US from its closest allies. Trump said he was "elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris".

    The White House said in a statement this week that the House bill "is inconsistent with the president's commitment to put American workers and families first, promote access to affordable, reliable energy sources and technologies and improve the quality of life for all Americans." 

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    The White House also asserted that the bill would interfere with Trump's constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy, including the power to withdraw from an executive agreement that Congress has not ratified.

    The Paris agreement, signed in 2015 by more than 190 counties, is a UN initiative intended to bring the world together in the fight against climate change. Signed by President Barack Obama, the pact commits the US to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

    The US also pledged three billion dollars to a fund that helps developing countries fight climate change.

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    SOURCE: News agencies