Democrats push bills, resolution in line with climate talks

November 01, 2021

Congressional Democrats are pushing international financing institutions to move away from fossil fuels, as United Nations climate talks kick off in Glasgow, Scotland.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) last week introduced bicameral legislation — S. 3106 and H.R. 5775 — that would require U.S. representatives at international financing organizations — such as the International Finance Corp. and various development banks — to use the “voice and vote” of the United States to advocate greenhouse gas reductions and sustainable development.

The “Sustainable International Financial Institutions Act” would also prohibit direct foreign assistance for any fossil fuel activity or related infrastructure project through the Export-Import Bank of the United States and other foreign aid agencies.

“As we gather as an international community next week, it’s time for global leaders to rethink the role that international financial institutions play in financing fossil fuel projects,” Merkley said in a statement. “We should be building out the energy sources of the future, not trapping developing communities and nations with outdated and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure.”

The bill revives a dispute in Congress about financing for fossil fuel projects abroad. It’s been a long-running concern for Huffman, who has introduced legislation in years past targeting U.S. financing for fossil fuel projects in the developing world.

The issue last bubbled up in 2019, when Democrats were debating a reauthorization bill for the Export-Import Bank. Progressives wanted to ban fossil fuel financing but were ultimately rebuffed, and Congress ended up passing a bill that offered the bank new resources to fund renewable and sustainable projects (E&E Daily, Nov. 1, 2019).

“As the United States looks to reassert global climate leadership at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, our government must work to assist other countries in their transition away from dirty fossil fuels and toward a clean and sustainable future,” Huffman said in a statement.

Glasgow will be a running theme this week. Democrats are looking to message their climate chops and finish negotiations on a $1.75 trillion reconciliation package — including some $555 billion in climate funding — to boost President Biden’s credibility, as he touts his emissions pledge at the U.N. talks (see related story).

More than 140 Democrats are also supporting a resolution, H. Res. 755, in support of COP 26 talks in Glasgow.

House Republicans introduced a resolution of their own, H. Res 754, against taxes on the natural gas industry. Specifically, sponsor Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) and other backers are protesting the Democrats' effort to price methane releases

Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is asking agencies sending officials to Glasgow about the carbon footprint of that travel and the reasons behind what he calls a "bloated" U.S. delegation.

"It is rather perplexing that in this new age of digital communication and during an ongoing pandemic, executive branch departments and agencies are unnecessarily choosing to contribute directly to carbon emissions and risk exposure to COVID-19," Barrasso wrote.

By:  Nick Sobczyk
Source: E&E Daily