House backs Paris agreement in first climate bill in a decade

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed its first climate-change bill in a decade, voting 231-190 to require that Trump administration 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 United States to meet the goals it committed to in the Paris agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and block federal funds from being used to advance the formal U.S. withdrawal from the pact.

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

The bill, which passed along party lines, as expected, 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.

“Today we sent a message to the president, to the American people and to the world that we recognize 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 Representative Frank Pallone, chairman of the House energy committee.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would not take up the legislation, dismissing the bill as “political theater” by Democrats.

Democrats have put climate change back on the agenda in Congress after re-gaining the majority in the House earlier this year, holding dozens of hearings on the issue.

Many of the Democratic candidates hoping to challenge Trump in the 2020 presidential election have made climate change a top-tier issue of their campaigns. All have backed re-entering the United States into the Paris Climate Agreement.

A few candidates, including most recently former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, have also supported setting a goal for the United States to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 - one of the goals of the Paris agreement.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by James Dalgleish and Leslie Adler