A Democratic majority in the U.S. House in January will mark the "dawn of a new era" in fighting climate change, according to U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who on Monday ticked off his own energy and environmental policy to-do list for the coming year.
Markey held a morning meeting at his Boston office with representatives of more than 20 environmental groups to discuss priorities for the new Congress. Addressing reporters afterwards, he outlined an agenda that includes items that have yet to become law at the state level: a transition to 100 percent clean energy, and a carbon-pricing system.
Along with achieving 100 percent clean energy within the next 20 years and laying down "markets for putting a price on carbon," Markey's climate action priorities include promoting energy efficiency, halting fossil fuel exports, and "ushering in offshore wind," which he described as "the next frontier in clean energy."
Markey, a Malden Democrat, is set to serve in the new year in a Senate that remains under Republican control, while this year's midterm elections ushered in a new Democratic majority in the House. The flip in House control means "the dynamic is now different in Washington," Markey said.
"A green agenda can come out of the House of Representatives that then empowers the senators who care about these issues, including Republicans, because it will no longer be a bottled up agenda," he said. "This agenda is now about to become real. It's about to become alive."
Markey said House action on climate can "empower" senators to pursue funding for green projects in appropriation bills, a "major green component" in any infrastructure bill, and tax breaks for wind and solar power, battery technology and electric vehicles.
"This is the dawn of a new era," he said. "It's toward injecting at a minimum all of these issues into the presidential race in 2020, but I think we can have some concrete achievements before we reach that election."
Markey also voiced support for a congressional resolution establishing a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. The panel would develop a plan to transition the U.S. economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral.
Thirty-seven current and future members of Congress support the proposal, according to the Sunrise Movement, including U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern, Joe Kennedy III, Katherine Clark and Seth Moulton, and Reps.-elect Lori Trahan and Ayanna Pressley.
Markey said building new clean-energy infrastructure throughout the U.S. will show leadership to other countries and create blue-collar jobs for Americans.
"We are going to save all of creation by engaging in massive job creation," he said.
Anne Kelly of the sustainability coalition Ceres said her group is "deeply committed" to bringing investors and businesses to Washington to support Markey's climate agenda, "in particularly to support a price on carbon, one that is fair, that includes a just transition for the most vulnerable, one that is richly bipartisan and is durable and long term."
As part of a larger renewable energy bill, the state Senate this year approved establishing a carbon-pricing system in Massachusetts. Advocates cheered the Senate passage as a milestone, though it was eventually dropped from the final legislation in closed-door talks with the House.
Bills calling for the state to get all of its power from renewable sources have also not made it to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk.
Markey pointed to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants, as "something we can build on," saying it has had "tremendous impact in reducing dramatically greenhouse gases out of the utility sector in Massachusetts" and other participating states.
"We have to tell our story better about how well it has worked in creating jobs while reducing greenhouse gases, so I ultimately believe that we will be able to accomplish the goal, but it has to begin here in Massachusetts and we have to take the story and make the case that you can create jobs while reducing greenhouse gases by putting a price on carbon," he said.