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Blumenauer, prominent Senate Dems, push for climate change emergency order

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has renewed his push for legislation requiring a presidential declaration of national emergency related to climate change.

The Oregon Democrat joined two other prominent figures Thursday to call for the declaration, which he says would mobilize every resource available to prepare for and mitigate the effects of the crisis.

The others are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020, and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They advocated a similar resolution two years ago, when Donald Trump — a denier of climate change — was still president.

“Last Congress, I worked with Oregon environmental activists to draft a climate emergency resolution that captured the urgency of this moment,” Blumenauer said in a statement Thursday.

“President Biden has done an outstanding job of prioritizing climate in the first days of his administration, but after years of practiced ignorance from Trump and congressional Republicans, an even larger mobilization is needed.”

Democrat Joe Biden has taken several steps toward reversing Trump’s executive orders in the first days of his presidency, notably having the United States rejoin the 2015 Paris accord that committed nations to set voluntary targets for reduction of greenhouse gases.

The new measure would go farther than the 2019 proposal (House Concurrent Resolution 52), which was co-sponsored by 102 members, including Oregon Democrats Suzanne Bonamici and Peter DeFazio. The 2019 resolution never advanced beyond the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

It would require the president to invoke a 1976 law governing national emergencies and report annually until the emergency is over about specific actions he has taken to deal with it.

Among the potential actions are investments in large-scale mitigation and resiliency projects, upgrades to public infrastructure, modernization of millions of buildings to cut pollution, investments in public health, protections for public lands, and regenerative agriculture investments that support local and regional food systems.

Blumenauer said there are plenty of incentives to act.

Damage from climate-related natural disasters has cost the United States more than double the long-term average from 2014 through 2018, at an estimated $100 billion per year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that 22 events, each causing at least $1 billion in damage, cost the nation a total of $95 billion in 2020.

According to the fourth National Climate Assessment, released in 2018, climate change increases the risk to public health from air and water pollution, wildfires and insect infestations.

The latest effort has drawn support from dozens of organizations.

Its fate is uncertain. Democrats have tenuous majorities in the House and the Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaker in a 50-50 chamber.

The U.S. Capitol building is seen from the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, file