Flexing their new muscle in the US Congress, the Democrats have said they will not vote through President Trump’s plans for bolstering US infrastructure if they do not explicitly address climate change.
Last week the Trump administration was reported to be about to float a $1 trillion upgrade of the nations road, rail and energy infrastructure.
But Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ Senate minority leader, used a Washington Post op-ed piece on 6 December to warn there would be "no deal on infrastructure" unless Trump’s plan included policies and funding that help transition the country "to a clean-energy economy and mitigate the risks the United States already faces from climate change".
The move could be vexatious for the president, a climate change skeptic who labelled concern over climate as a "hoax" during his 2016 presidential campaign.
In an October interview he said he no longer thought it was a hoax, but added that he didn’t want "to give trillions and trillions of dollars" to the issue, and said scientists warning of climate change "have a very big political agenda".
Firing a shot over the administration’s bows after last month’s mid-term elections, which saw Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, Schumer said his colleagues in the House would have power to propose legislation.
In the 100-seat Senate, where the Republicans increased their slim majority, Schumer said the Democrats could deny Trump the 60 votes needed to pass legislation.
Schumer used this year’s California wildfires and past hurricanes to slam the "denialism" of the president and of "too many Republicans in Congress", who he claimed were in thrall to "powerful special interests".
He called for "massive investments" in renewable-energy infrastructure and technologies such as battery storage, and for making infrastructure more climate-resilient.
Saying such policies would create "good-paying green jobs", he said a Democrat-approved infrastructure bill could also include tax credits for clean-energy production and storage, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient homes.
Image: The Holy Fire at Lake Elsinore, California, 9 August 2018. The Democrats’ Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer used wildfires to slam Trump’s "denialism" on climate change (Kevin Key/Dreamstime)