Democrats at COP27 worry Republican election gains will hurt climate agenda

COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh

By Valerie Volcovici and William James

SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) -U.S. Democratic lawmakers at the UN climate summit in Egypt expressed concern on Thursday that Republican gains in the midterm Congressional elections could spell trouble for America's efforts to fight climate change.

The administration of Democrat U.S. President Joe Biden is hoping the United States, the world's second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter behind China, can be a world leader in slashing emissions but has faced political opposition from Republicans who argue his environmental policies are unwarranted.

Kathy Castor, the Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, told an audience at the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday that if Republicans take control of the Congress it could reduce the chances for additional legislative action to fight global warming.

"It's quite likely if for some reason the GOP ekes out control of the House of Representatives, they will nix the Climate Committee," she said during a panel discussion. "They have not really been partners in tackling the climate crisis."

Speaking on the same panel, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticised lawmakers who disagree global warming is a real problem, and said Democrats and Republicans would have to work together to combat climate change.

"We have to get over that," Pelosi said of lawmakers who have claimed climate change is a hoax. "I place my confidence in their children who hopefully will teach their parents that this is urgent, long overdue. But again, how we will address it is to get working together," she said.

Pelosi also pointed out that Biden had already succeeded in signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law, a sweeping bill that included billions of dollars in subsidies for solar and wind power and electric vehicles.

Republicans edged closer on Thursday to securing a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives two days after Democrats staved off an anticipated "red wave" of Republican gains in Tuesday's midterm elections.

A delegation of Republican lawmakers arrived on Thursday in Sharm El-Sheikh separately from the Democrats and will hold an event on Friday.

Castor told Reuters after the panel that the Democratic House and Senate will work to push through an appropriations bill in the lame duck session that could release aid pledged by the Biden administration to help poor countries adapt to climate change. Last year, Biden pledged to double funds to help developing nations adapt to the effects of climate change by 2024 to $11.4 billion per year.

"We're going to be pushing for it," she said.

(Reporting by William James and Valerie Volcovici, writing by Nafisa Eltahir. Editing by Jane Merriman and Toby Chopra)