Pelosi Remarks at San Francisco Press Event on Building Back Better on Climate
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press event highlighting critical provisions in the Build Back Better Act that tackle the climate crisis, address environmental justice and invest in America’s clean energy future on the Living Roof at the California Academy of Sciences. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. It’s such a treat to come to the Academy of Sciences, and – in this very special place.
It is – when my children were little, and I’m saying little like babes in arms, we would come here almost every day to the African Hall to see the animals. I was invited to be on the board of the Louis S. B. Leakey Foundation — we did a symposia with the Academy of Sciences. So, again, when my children were little, they’d say, ‘Who is it today, Mom, the Democrats or the scientists?’
Both. Both. So, today, we are here. Hopefully, in a nonpartisan way, but prepared to make the fight in every way that we can.
The issue of climate is an issue that is a health issue: clean air, clean water for our children. It's a jobs issue: good, green jobs, to be technologically advanced and sharing that with other countries that need to, to, to get their, their climate needs met. It's a security issue: our national security experts tell us, with all of the things that — you know, the rising sea levels, the drying up of rivers, the encroachment of deserts, the warming, the thermal warming of the planet — all of these things could cause migration and competition for resources, as well as habitat, and therefore, it's a security issue.
And most of all, it's a moral issue. We have a moral responsibility to pass this planet on to future generations in a way that is responsible. I, I – and my dear friend, Sally – well, the Reverend Sally Bingham, we believe – I don't speak for her – but I believe this is God's creation, and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it. But even if you don't share that, we all share the responsibility to our children, grandchildren and future generations.
In this legislation that is pending, that we are still finalizing, the climate piece of it is — three buckets. It's important for you to know the three buckets. They're all about jobs, and they're all about children and the future. Climate, the climate bucket is very, very important. And whatever, shall we say, modifications we make, we have to have in there the ability for us to reach our goals in curbing pollution and the rest in preparation for COP26. Climate and more on that as we proceed.
Secondly, is health care: Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, very important part of the legislation. And third, the family. Again, health care is about jobs. Climate is about jobs. And the third is the family piece of it.
And the family piece of it is how we Build Back Better in every respect. Build Back Better with women in the workforce, workplace training, all the rest of that. And it's about child care. It's about Child Tax Credit for families. It's about home health care, so important. It's about family and medical leave. It's about, as I said child care, but also in company with that, tied with that, universal pre-K. The list goes on and on about how we are – enable families to care for, honor their home responsibilities as they honor their career responsibilities to provide for their families.
And at the same time, have respect for the workers who are doing these jobs, whether it's child care, home, health care and the rest, that what they are doing is an important part of our economy. [They] largely are women, many women of color, and that's why we're saying ‘Build Back Better.’
When we do this, all of this, it's with everybody at the table. Our friends in labor who are —Rudy, and thank you, Olga, for being here. It's about having the enviros at the table. Thank you all for being here as well. It's about having business. It's about having farmers. It's about having Native Americans. It's about having everybody at the table, and I only named a few. That's a – it's a big table, so that when we have a solution, it is a solution. Not a declaration that is alienating, but a solution that is unifying.
So, again, we again, the – what we're here today about is specifically about the climate piece. This is our moment. We cannot – we don't have any more time to wait. When I was Speaker the first time, the climate was my flagship issue. That was when President Bush was president. And later we would have President Obama and do health et cetera. But, but this was my flag. We passed the biggest energy bill in the history of our country, in terms of addressing our emissions and the rest of that — but it wasn't the climate bill. We couldn't pass that in the Senate, you need 60 votes. We couldn't do that in the Senate.
So, this was a number of years ago. That was like 2010, and it was urgent then. Now, it is a level of urgency at that is an imperative that we get this job done in preparation for COP26, which is right around the corner, and to do so that helps us honor our responsibilities, but also share with other countries, developing countries, technology or resources that they need to meet their responsibilities For The Children.
Now, we have some very special guests here today. Our distinguished Senator from California, Alex Padilla, so active on so many fronts, including this one, in committee, on the Floor, in a legislation, whether it's about electricity, whether it's about school buses and, and clean energy for that, the list goes on. He'll talk about that. He brings to the Senate his experience from the United States – excuse me – the California State Senate when he was there before becoming Secretary of State. So, he is well equipped for this fight that we're in – well, hopefully it's not a fight – this discussion that we're in, so that we have the resources to meet the challenge. That is our imperative For The Children.
After we hear from Senator Padilla, we're hearing from Eddie Ahn. Eddie is Director of Brightline Defense. It's – he’s advanced – he's the Executive Director of that. And it is who is advancing equity and environmental justice. Equity, environmental justice is such an essential piece of this legislation, because environmental justice and just equity in terms of how we proceed. If we don't do that, we are abdicating our responsibility to the future. We cannot just build back the way we did before. We have to Build Back Better. So, Eddie will talk more about that.
Dr. Daniel Kammen, a Professor of Energy of Berkeley, on the cutting edge of climate research and public service. Thank you so much, Dr. Kammen, for being with us.
And then the Reverend Sally Bingham, President Emeritus of the Regeneration Project, reminding us of our moral duty to protect the planet. You've probably seen Sally at one time or another, any number of times at Grace Cathedral, any time people come together to talk about God's creation of this planet.
So, with that, I'm very pleased to yield to the distinguished Senator from California. We're so proud of him, and we're so proud that he was effective from the start on protecting the planet For The Children. Senator Padilla.
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Speaker Pelosi. Reverend Bingham — on Saturday, I had the privilege of having this conversation with His Holiness Pope Francis. He, of course, has been a leader on this: God’s creation and how we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it. He gave me a copy of the Laudato Si’, his encyclical on climate, which he autographed to me, and I considered that just, that is as big an honor that could ever happen, but it is a moral responsibility, as you said. And it is a high priority for His Holiness, and he has been, obviously, a leader on this.
I was – when I was in Italy for the G20 and then Portugal the next day for the – for NATO, the focus was largely on climate and how we prepare. They had a pre-COP26 ceremony that I participated in as well, and it was very exciting. But, you know what? All of those countries — G20 and guests of the other countries that were able to come to the NATO meeting and the rest — people wanted to know what are we going to do in the United States.
We have such a responsibility to be leaders in this. And I want to join those who’ve commended California, our Senator and others, who’ve commended California for it’s work. Our Governor, Gavin Newsom, has been a champion on this subject, as well as when he was mayor of San Francisco and London Breed is similarly a champion on this, leading the way.
So, this is personal: people making decisions, as Reverend Bingham said, making decisions about climate in their own lives. It's about local, it’s about state. ‘Think local, act globally’ — because this is what we have to do. Usually we say the reverse – ‘think globally, act locally’ – but in one way or another. And one way that we do it locally is with our friends and neighbors. So, I'm so happy that Rudy Gonzalez of the San Francisco Building Trades is here. That's a place where we are going to do a lot of good work in this regard.
Olga Miranda, congratulations on the contract with the better public – the janitors. You're such a champion. But again, all of these jobs that we're talking about should be union jobs, including the home health care workers in all of this as well. I'm very happy that Laurie Wayburn from the Pacific Forest Trust is here. Her family has been the family of climate from the earliest start: Ed Wayburn, and her mom, Peggy, have been such champions. So, thank you. Every place you look, you see the work that Ed Wayburn was the inspiration of and Phil Burton implemented in the Congress.
And then Igor Tregub from the Sierra Club, thank you, Igor, for being here. Thank you, Igor. And I do want to acknowledge Mike Casey from the San Francisco Labor Council, who’s with us, Mike Casey.
Where’d he go? Where's Mike? Over there? Oh, over there. I was looking here. Hi, Mike. Thank you for being here.
And I also just want to acknowledge Scott Sampson, the Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, and thank him for the work that the Academy of Sciences does, but also for the hospitality to be here on the Living Roof, Living Roof, just in the forefront of all this.
Let me just say, talking about one of the stories that I tell is maybe fifteen years ago or something. And then at 30 years on that, I was in Alaska, where – if you go to Alaska, you see in real time what's happening: melting of the glaciers, so much happening there. But what I was told about fifteen years ago was, that 30 years previous to that — so nearly 50 years ago — the elders told people that something was happening to the habitat. The flora and fauna, it was different. They were told at the time that that was anecdotally interesting, but scientifically insignificant. And so, without going into who might have told them that, in his best interest were being protected in that way. They saw. They knew early on. Now, it's not early on. We see. We know. And we must get this accomplished.
And in a way, again, that's good-paying jobs. Now, this is about creating good-paying jobs, that the initiative is paid for, not only is it paid for, but Senator Padilla can attest, it's not only paid for — it reduces the national debt, because we have people paying their fair share. And it – again, it reduces the debt, creates jobs, good-paying jobs, millions of jobs, union jobs, and also it meets the needs of the American people. And central to that is the climate piece of this.
We have no choice but to make this decision. We have opposition on the other side of the aisle – who knows why? Talk to your children. They know more about this. The children will lead the way on this.
But with that, I'm sure that our guests would be happy to take any questions on this subject and I would join them in that. On the subject of climate? Any questions? Any comments that you would like to make further?
Senator Padilla. A few words in Spanish. I understand some there's some Spanish language press here, so just briefly.
Estoy orgulloso de estar aquí con la gran lidera, Nancy Pelosi, presidenta de la Cámara de Representantes en el Congreso, no solo para anunciar nuestro apoyo sino nuestro compromiso de incluir las varias iniciativas para combatir la crisis climática en la medida de infraestructura que estamos al punto de aprobar.
Este paquete de infraestructura representa una inversión histórica en el país y diferente del paquete de infraestructura está aprobado en el pasado, hay un gran enfoque e incluye las comunidades más impactadas por la crisis climática y también acepta las varias iniciativas como tenemos aquí al nivel estatal de California para combatir la crisis climática y todas las crisis del futuro que van a ocurrir o pueden ocurrir en diez, veinte o trente años.
Estamos viendo el impacto hoy en día, comenzado con los incendios históricos de este año. Así es que es bastante urgente. Tenemos una gran oportunidad y lo vamos a lograr. Gracias.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Senator. I do want to also acknowledge that we have some other guests here. Dianne Le, from the California Young Democrats; Dianne Kefauver, a champion on all these issues for a long time; Ike Kwon, thank you for being here. Hi, Ike. And Liore Milgrom-Gartner from California Interfaith Power and Light, which was discussed.
Aren't we proud of the resources that we have here today? Eddie Ahn, thank you for talking about equity in all that we do. Again, we cannot repeat past mistakes. And the President has been so great on this. He said, ‘I don't want to – I want to do a bipartisan bill. And that's important, the infrastructure bill. But I will not confine my vision for the country to what we can do in a bipartisan way.’ We have to go further with equity and, of course, the climate issues as well. So, thank you, Eddie. Thank you, Dr. Daniel Kammen, and congratulations on your new assignment in the White House now, and then on to, to Glasgow. And Sally Bingham, she's been preaching the gospel of climate for a very long time. Thank you so much.
Now, in terms of timing, as just a few weeks ago, the UN issued its ‘Code Red for humanity.’ What more of a message do we need? Science-based, science-based, widely known sources, and the policies to get the job done? Thank you all so much.
Okay, on climate? Okay. And we'll take others after. But, yes, ma'am?
Q: Hi, Laura Kilvans with KQED. I wanted to know how are your constituents here going to feel the impact of this bill day to day?
Speaker Pelosi. How will our constituents here feel the impact? Now, this is – and I'm going to call on some others to join me because this will – this is a bill that is not just like legislation, incremental, do the best you can. This is transformative. It's Build Back Better. It's Build Back Better to save the planet. It's Build Back Better for women in the workplace. It's Build Back Better For The Children.
So, they will find out very soon, in the three buckets that I mentioned, what this means for climate, what it means for health care, what it means for women in the workplace and dads, too, who have responsibilities at home. It is going – as the Rescue Plan, that Senator Padilla was so instrumental in passing in the Senate in the Congress, that immediately put money in people's pockets, vaccines in people's arms, people back to work, children safely on their path to go to school. And it took 50 percent of the children who live in poverty out of poverty. That was COVID related. We have to make all of this permanent. And that's what the legislation will do. It's largely, if you just take it from the perspective of the, of the children, the children of California and their families will greatly benefit.
Senator? Any of you.
Dr. Daniel Kammen. I’m happy to comment.
Senator Padilla. Go ahead. Then I’ll go after you.
Dr. Daniel Kammen. Sure. So, I mean, it's a great question, because California is already the nexus of clean energy jobs. We have more people employed in renewable energy and energy efficiency than we have in the fossil fuel sector and more than in all of our utilities combined.
In addition, many of the new clean energy companies have their financial and administrative heads here in California, and in the Speaker's district. So, one of the big benefits locally is that those companies in those industries will get a big boost, we're already looking at three to five times more jobs by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency than in the fossil fuel areas. So, this is really an investment in not only current employment, but also young people moving into the workforce. And I highlight groups like GRID Alternatives, here in California, that not only employs underrepresented individuals, but also works with people coming out of the prison system to get back into the workforce, truly in a way that Build Back Better highlights.
So, I think for all of us, it's a huge opportunity for California residents, and it's also ability to move many of California's technologies, more efficient homes, smarter windows, heat pumps, to the national and global stage. So it's really a jobs bill first, that thankfully does climate at its core. So, I think it's really a great question, and thank you for the chance to answer.
Rev. Sally Bingham. It's such a good question about how will it help the constituents of California. This is just one detail, but if we let it go, we lose the opportunity to get a rebate on an electric car, and that will be installed in Build Back Better, so that those of us who who want to get an electric car, there's going to continue to be a benefit for that.
Senator Padilla. Thank you for the question. I’ll give just, sort of, three examples and a reminder that it is a two-bill package that must go together. That's been the understanding from day one.
First example. As Speaker Pelosi mentioned, when I was in the State Senate, I served as Chair of the Committee on Energy, Utility and Communications. And I share that because the proposals to shift towards more renewable energy sources — we know is not just an idea that we think is good, and we're crossing our fingers. California has demonstrated it to work. You know, we can keep the power on, we can keep the lights on and reduce emissions and create good-paying jobs in the process. That's a significant element of this, the climate initiatives in Build Back Better.
Example number two: the electrical grid. You know, whether it's a wildfires in California, or ice storms in Texas just a few months ago, we know that we need to modernize the electrical grid, not just from a reliability standpoint, not just from a resiliency standpoint, but for purposes of efficiency, reducing emissions, and undoing the causes that lead to wildfires and more extreme weather incidents in different parts of the country. The electrical, the electric vehicle, not just cars that we're talking about, but the underlying infrastructure that supports them: charging stations in residences and commercial locations. You know, that's a lot of good-paying jobs to build out that infrastructure as we go through the transition.
And the final example I'll give is one that's personal to me. The ability to assist school districts in transitioning out of diesel school buses and into electric school buses and zero emission school buses. Again, proven technology — not a wish. More than 90 percent of bus fleets in America are school buses, more than 90 percent of those school buses are diesel. And as someone who used to be a kid riding on one of those school buses once upon a time, I still remember what that diesel exhaust smells like. Our kids deserve better. So, the conversion of school buses to zero emission is obviously good for the planet, it's great for public health, and it's better for the child's academic performance, because healthier kids learn better. So, a lot more initiatives like that in this infrastructure proposals.
Speaker Pelosi. And by the way, since we're talking about children, and what they're breathing and all the rest, so much in this legislation that we needed to do anyway — but it falls under the category of climate as well — is replacing lead pipes throughout the country. Our children are drinking water that is laden with lead. They're in schools where lead paint is on the walls. It is – it's an immorality, really, in my view, to have to have that continue. And this was a real priority for us to make sure that we were improving the atmosphere for the children, whether it was the air they breathe, writ large, or the planet in which they live.
Anything – other questions? Yes?
Q: Speaker Pelosi, are there any anything as far as a deadline for negotiations on the bill set currently? And then, are any of the climate specific provisions on the table, as far as negotiations go?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the – I'm not here to go into the negotiation, but we will have what we need in terms of the climate provisions. The – we’ll bring the bill to the Floor when we have the votes to bring the bill to the Floor. But we're working, constantly, 24-7, whether wherever we are in D.C. or with His Holiness or here today, to shorten the distance between where we need to be and where we are now.
But, I feel very confident. As the Senator indicated, this will – will get done, because it must get done. And the – again, we have, we're having those negotiations. Our Chairmen are sharpening their pencils as to how we come down with the number. I wish we could stay at the big number, but we can't. And the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone, Anna Eshoo, others from here – on that Committee are working very hard to make sure that whatever clarification is needed in terms of the language in the bill – apart from the money, the language in the bill, that that is being done. But, thank you for your question.
And today is very important for us because you see the local intellectual resources that we have, to meet the needs of people. And that's what this is about: to meet people's needs in a way that creates jobs protects God's gift to us, the planet, reduces the national debt, and does so as soon as possible. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
Q: Can I ask a question?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, okay.
Q: Off-topic. The first one about the Supreme Court and, if there’s time, the supply chain issue. The Commissioners’ report has yet to come out, and we know enough that you’d want to see it first, however, we seen that power progressives want to get their way, so if they want to bring legislation to expand the Court forward, would you support them for the sake of…
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let's see what the Commission has to say. The gentleman's question was about the size of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court hasn't had increased its size since Lincoln's days. We've had nine members since then, so it's a legitimate discussion to have. And the President appointed Commission to put it forth, to discuss that. And then, what was the other point?
Q: On that specific question?
Speaker Pelosi. No, no, you said it was two parts. Was it? Oh, the supply chain. The supply chain. Yes. You see, the President declared yesterday that the Port of Los Angeles would be 24-7, and our friends in labor in the – I think, I think, Mr. Adams, President Adams was there with the President yesterday, from the ILWU supporting that. So many of the supply chain issues relate to how we get them from container to marketplace, but a lot of it is what's happening in the other countries, as well. So, the supply issue is a global one that we have to address. But we're very proud of President Adams.
Thank you. Thank you all, very much.