International Climate Action at Home: LCV in Conversation with Congressional Climate Leaders

Brittany King, bking@lcv.org

The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” – Dr. James Hansen to the U.S. Congress, June 1988

“A code red for humanity.” – UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the release of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, August 2021 

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Over the last 30 years, the alarm bells have grown ever louder when it comes to the climate crisis. The rising cost – in lives, money, and dreams – of the climate crisis has become more and more plain with each year we do not cut our emissions. Yet, despite an increasingly chaotic and deadly climate, the U.S. has never passed a major climate bill.

That could be about to change. Congress and the White House may just squeak out a deal to make major investments in climate action and environmental justice before the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) begins on November 1st

What needs to get done at COP26 reflects the action needed here at home: centering equity; funding climate action, from clean energy to nature-based solutions; making reparations for past harms; holding the largest emitters accountable; and ramping up climate ambition to be able  to stabilize our climate at 1.5°C (2.7°F). Life as we know it literally depends on our success in delivering on these goals. 

The Build Back Better Act is a major piece of how we accomplish these priorities in the U.S. It will not only put the U.S. on the path to cutting climate pollution in half by 2030, but directly invest in communities of color and low-income communities which too often face the worst of environmental injustices and climate impacts, create good-paying union jobs, and uphold our promises to the world.

We are in a once-in-a-generation moment. Just as COP21 in Paris was 6 years ago, COP26 has the potential to be a watershed moment for climate action. It is critical that Congress enacts a Build Back Better Act that passes the climate test. That’s why organizations, leaders, activists, and people around the U.S. are working nonstop to make sure our country meets this moment. Between the reconciliation package and strong state and executive leadership, the U.S. can and will equitably meet our climate goals.

Given the importance of this moment for the U.S. and the world, LCV asked members of Congress to connect the dots between domestic climate action and international climate ambition, and their thoughts on what the world needs to achieve at COP26:   

1). Sunday was International Day for Climate Action, what do you see as the biggest impact individuals can make when it comes to addressing the climate crisis?

Creating a global climate revolution takes public pressure & involvement, starting from community-based, climate-friendly practices – at schools, businesses, and places of work.” – Chair Gregory Meeks

We will only successfully address this issue if the people make their voices heard.” – Rep. Karen Bass

Vote, and if you don’t see an urgency in your elected leaders on addressing the climate crisis, consider running for office yourself. ” – Rep. Nanette D. Barragán

The best thing is pressuring the companies responsible for climate change (and the elected officials who cover for them).” – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Keep making noise and demanding that your representatives act — and the momentum will follow!” – Rep. Adriano Espaillat

This is our last best chance to meaningfully tackle climate change. This requires a whole of society strategy. ” – Rep. Andy Kim

Call, write and lobby your members of Congress. We’re in the final stretch of the Build Back Better negotiations, and we have to make sure strong climate provisions are included.” – Sen. Chris Murphy

2). Earlier this year, the U.S. officially re-entered the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), and committed to a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) with the goal of cutting emissions by at least 50% by 2030. How do we achieve these goals in a just & equitable way?

The US officially re-entering the Paris Agreement was a crucial step in claiming our leadership role in the global fight to save our planet. But there’s still work to be done.” – Rep. Karen Bass

It’s not just about lowering emissions, but creating a strong sustainable economy around lowering emissions.” – Rep. Andy Kim

It’s important to hold polluters accountable and target support to the communities most affected by climate change, domestically and globally.” – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Frontline communities are closest to the source of the emissions. We must prioritize investments that benefit them while reducing pollution.” – Rep. Nanette D. Barragán

The Green Climate Fund targets this by financing developing nations’ climate efforts.” – Chair Gregory Meeks

3). On Sunday (10/31), COP26 begins. What do you think needs to come out of that meeting in order for the world to meet its climate goals?  

Next week is huge for the future of our planet. And that’s why it’s so important to send @POTUS to Glasgow with a deal to make major climate investments here at home. U.S. leadership matters.” – Sen. Chris Murphy

I want to see a real roadmap for how we will solve climate, not just “do something.” I’ve always believed that a transnational problem requires a transnational solution.” – Rep. Andy Kim

At COP26, world leaders must recommit to bold global action to save our planet from climate catastrophe.” – Rep. Joaquin Castro

And this begins with holding countries with high rates of pollution accountable, including our own.” – Rep. Adriano Espaillat

The major economies of the world need credible plans to reduce emissions consistent with what science says is necessary to hold warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.” – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

This existential threat deserves bold action — that’s why I support the Biden administration’s plan to cut climate pollution in at least half by 2030.” – Rep. Karen Bass

“Our work does not end when COP26 is over, and it is critical that the U.S. and our global partners remain focused on consistent progress toward our shared climate goals.” – Chair Gregory Meeks

4). What role does federal policy, and domestic policy more broadly, play in addressing this global challenge?  

It’s a global challenge, but we’ve got a big say in resolving it.” – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

The federal government has a huge role to play, and we need to invest into our nation’s infrastructure to start tackling the climate crisis head on.” – Rep. Adriano Espaillat

We’re on the cusp of passing POTUS’ Build Back Better agenda & taking real, tangible steps to address the climate crisis. What each country does domestically is key to tackling this global challenge. ” – Sen. Elizabeth Warren

I’ve focused on electrifying the transportation sector & spur innovation like offshore wind, to reduce climate change & create millions of good paying jobs.” – Rep. Andy Kim

As the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the US plays a critical role in slowing the warming of the planet and saving lives and livelihoods for generations to come by setting an example and reducing emissions here at home.” – Chair Gregory Meeks

One thing is clear: if we fail to take climate into account in our development projects, it will lead to less sustainable results.” – Rep. Joaquin Castro

We are the second largest emitter, and we have the resources to act on climate. It’s critical we pass the Build Back Better Act with strong climate investments to lead the way.” – Rep. Nanette D. Barragán

To demonstrate leadership on a global stage, the U.S. must have an actionable plan to reduce emissions and make communities more resilient to climate change. ” – Sen. Chris Coons

5). Which piece of legislation are you working or leading on that you think will be a key piece of the climate justice puzzle?

We won’t be able to accomplish what we need on emissions reduction & on rapidly scaling innovation on energy production, storage, & distribution unless all of Govt. makes investments now.” – Rep. Andy Kim

I am currently working on different pieces of legislation that would increase access to clean and renewable energy, protect our oceans and forests, and reduce our carbon emissions.” – Rep. Karen Bass

H.R. 2774 – The Green Climate Fund Act. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to transform our global climate resiliency, and to tackle the climate crisis head on.” – Rep. Adriano Espaillat

Earlier this year I introduced the #BuildGreen Act to make the big federal investments we need to electrify our country’s transportation system, fight for environmental justice, and to achieve ambitious targets for 100% clean energy in America.” – Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Passing legislation to accelerate a green energy transition is a top priority for Congressional Democrats. Conducting oversight to ensure that federal funds and programs reach vulnerable communities – including those in my district – is part and parcel with that aim.” – Chair Gregory Meeks

I have a bill: the Climate Smart Ports Act to invest in zero-emissions technology at ports for clean air & lower emissions.” – Rep. Nanette D. Barragán

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