Rep. Peters Explains Why He Doesn’t Like The Green New Deal
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Credit: U.S. House Office of Photography
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, unveiled his climate playbook this past spring. The playbook consists of more than 50 pieces of legislation which focus on addressing issues related to climate change. Ten of those bills have since moved out of committee. Peters told KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson he is committed to dealing with climate change, but Peters will not be supporting the Green New Deal.
Q: Local climate activists recently protested outside your office, urging you to co-sponsor the Green New Deal. Is that impacting your position?
A: I’m totally on board with taking bold action on climate. I’m totally on board with getting to net-zero (carbon emissions) by mid-century. I think that’s critical and that’s what science tells us. We have no disagreement on that. And I’m delighted about the enthusiasm that the Green New Deal has brought to the issue. We need that help. I’ve been working on this for 20 years at the local level, in the (California) Coastal Commission, at the Port (of San Diego) and now the federal government. This is the most engaged I’ve seen the public in it. I think we’re better off for that. Now it’s time to actually to bring real solutions to the problem and that’s what I’m working on.
Q: What do you think about the Green New Deal?
A: I don’t think it’s bold and I don’t think its action. I totally support the enthusiasm that it’s brought. I’m really happy to see that voters appear to be interested in what I’ve been interested in for 20 years which is climate action. And they’re taking votes based on that. But the Green New Deal is not bold in that it doesn’t bring anyone else in. It is the easiest thing in the world to go talk to a bunch of people you agree with and do a fiery speech. The hard thing is to go to the middle of the room, find people maybe you don’t agree with and get them to work on solutions. And action means bringing Republicans to the table. The problem with the Green New Deal is, one ... there’s no legislation in it. You have to follow up with legislation to implement it. But two, it contains some things in here that I just don’t agree with. Like guaranteed jobs from the federal government or free college. We can talk about those separately. It tends to push people away from the issue where we really need people to come together to get to net-zero (carbon emissions) by mid-century.
Q: You’ve put together a “climate playbook.” What is that and how does it work?
A: Rather than look for something divisive, we’ve decided to look for solutions that are already out there. The big difference is not that this election brought a difference on climate. It brought Democrats into the majority and a lot of us have been working on these things, haven’t been able to get them to the house floor, because leadership wouldn’t let us do that. So we’re looking at what we can do. We’re already looking at bringing the United States back into the Paris agreement. What can we do on decarbonizing electricity, industry, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation? Where can we agree on adaptation? What are we going to do about the effects we know come from climate change, already? And many of these bills that are out there already are bipartisan and we can get them passed. I think one thing that people need to realize is that the Green New Deal is not any of those actual steps. That if you pass the Green New Deal today, you’d have to take these actions tomorrow. And I’m already on to that.
Q: A lot of the bills in your climate playbook actually reference the Green New Deal.
A: What we wanted to show is that if you wanted to implement the Green New Deal, you want to achieve those goals … We all agree that you want to get to net-zero (carbon emissions) by mid-century … you need to take the steps we’ve outlined in the Green New Deal. Now we’re going further and we’re trying to prioritize those things. What would make the biggest difference? To find out what would really help us come together to save the planet, but the notion that we are able to snap our fingers to get through this is really misguided.
Q: What has made progress so far?
A: We passed HR 9 which is an effort to get the United States back into the Paris agreement, which every other country in the world is a part of, which is the notion that we’re all going to come together to solve the climate crisis together. We’ve asked, in HR 9, for President Trump to give us his plan if he doesn’t like the plans that were out there before. We’ve passed nine of the bills through my committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee in the house. Those go to the house floor and we’re working on bipartisan approaches for new bills. Whether it’s for methane capture or tax treatment for new base-load energies like hydro-power or geothermal. And for accounting better for extreme weather that comes from climate change. We’ve actually passed a bill on that through the house into the senate.
Q: Some scientists say there is a 10-year window to act to stave off some of the worst climate change outcomes. Can Congress act before that window closes?
A: It won’t happen in this next year, but we’re laying the groundwork for it to happen and I think we don’t have a lot of choice. We have to deal with this issue. That’s the reason I go to Washington every week — to try to make progress on this issue. I think there are others who are like me and we need to turn the minds and hearts of some people who are not with us yet. We don’t have a lot of choice — 10 years is our time. There’s no failing on this.
Q: How is your district going to be affected as the climate changes?
A: Back in 2010, I was chair of the climate initiative for the San Diego Foundation. One of the things we did was we funded research on that very question. There are three main effects in San Diego County. One is sea-level rise. One is more intense wildfires, which we’ve seen over the past decade or so. And one is water supply issues. Throughout the state, California is going to be affected with water supply issues. Those are all effects of climate change that will be felt here in San Diego.
Q: When you talk to your constituents what do you tell them to reassure them that we’re on a path that makes sense in relation to the changes that are going on?
A: Well I tell them that this has been a priority for me. My first priority is to marry what’s important to San Diego with Washington D.C. But the national issue that I’m working on is climate change.
Peters represents the 52nd District of California in the House of Representatives. That includes coastal and central parts of the city of San Diego, as well as Poway and Coronado.
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