Transcript of U.S. Congressional Delegation Press Conference at COP26 Glasgow
Glasgow – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the U.S. Congressional delegation to COP26 in Glasgow for a press conference. Below is a full transcript:
Chair Castor. Well, good morning, everyone. I'm Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. We have a strong presentation delegation this morning. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi, for bringing us together again.
At the outset, I'd like to say – on behalf of our delegation – that it has been very inspiring to be here at the COP, to see countries working together in common purpose, to meet our climate goals, especially to reduce pollution and emissions. This work is very hard, when you're asking countries across the planet to come together in common purpose for a common goal. But it is absolutely necessary to our survival and our ability to stave off the rising cost and the escalating impacts of the climate crisis.
It has been especially inspiring to see here at the COP the diverse voices from across the globe from every corner of the earth – all continents, vulnerable nations, indigenous people, young people – demanding action. And I want them to know that we have heard them.
What we've also heard here at the COP, from other countries and other policymakers, is how pleased they are to see the United States of America back, playing a constructive role in partnership with them and hammering out the very difficult path forward. This high level delegation that Speaker Pelosi has brought here to the COP – really, the Congress is here to demonstrate that we are doing our part to ensure that President Biden is successful when he sets a new goal of reducing pollution in the United States, our emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 and then getting to net zero no later than 2050. We understand our role. And that's why, looking ahead, we are poised to pass the most significant clean energy, infrastructure, climate bill in the history of our country.
But, we are here today also to provide a little more detail on that and what what lies ahead with a number of our climate champions here in the Congress: Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Congressman Jared Huffman, Congressman Adriano Espaillat. So, I'll turn it over to Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon and the Ways and Means Committee.
Congressman Blumenauer. Thank you, Chair Castor. We are in a race against time. I came here buoyed by the experience I had with Speaker Pelosi and the first Select Committee. It took on new urgency for me this year with the horrific events – there was one day this summer in Portland where temperatures in the heart of my district hit  degrees. People died.
But, the United States came to this conference with the leadership of our Speaker, our President, an unprecedented package of legislation that we have moving forward to help mobilize the resources that are necessary. What's happened with the investment community, what's happened with individual businesses and the legislation we have – I returned to Capitol Hill energized about what we are going to get across the finish line and, most important, by the young people that we are engaged with here who are not going to let people forget the commitments and the urgency – and build on the remarkable achievements that we have going forward.
Chair Castor. Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota and the Appropriations Committee.
Congresswoman McCollum. Thank you. I have the honor and privilege of chairing the Subcommittee of Appropriations that deals with the defense investments. And we're very focused on national security and climate change – and what's happening around the world is very much part of that national security footprint.
So, we have made significant investments in the House bill. We're going to be going to conference, but it was a top priority. We have new funding and climate investments that includes vulnerability, resiliency, science and technology, looking forward to do what we can do with science and technology and also transfer that information to our allies and those around the world – because we know, in the Department of Defense, we have to reduce our footprint on fossil fuels. We need to reduce our footprint on greenhouse gas emissions.
And most importantly, we need to work on energy resilience and conservation. We've really dug down deep into that. Out of that learning, we can also have working with technology with the private sector and share what we learned to reduce greenhouse carbon footprints, not only in the Department of Defense, but throughout the U.S. government and hopefully share that with our allies around the world. Thank you.
Chair Castor. Next, we'll go to Congressman Jared Huffman of the Transportation Committee, the Natural Resource Committee and, very importantly, the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Jared Huffman of California.
Congressman Huffman. Thank you. Chair Castor used, I think, the most important word I can think of when we talk about the climate crisis: action. We are beyond being inspired by possibilities, by ideas, by advancing the debate. This is a decade of action and, you know, the stakes of inaction have become all too clear.
So, in order to translate our work into action – and those of us in the House of Representatives have a critical role to play – we need some inspiration, we need some optimism, we need to stay motivated. And we got plenty of that here at COP26. I think many of us were very energized after our meeting with Secretary Kerry yesterday, because his optimism is palpable. And so is his incredible substantive command of every single issue at stake in this climate crisis. And so, I am grateful for the opportunity to be here with our impressive American delegation, a delegation that is not just back in, but all in, and leading in incredibly effective ways. And we will take that sense of optimism and inspiration back with us to Washington, because we've got work to finish in the House and in the Congress to make sure that we are all in as well. Thank you.
Chair Castor. Right. Next up, Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York and the Appropriations Committee.
Congressman Espaillat. Thank you. We've heard voices these last couple of days from those that contribute less, but are hurt the most. From women, from indigenous people, island nations, developing countries, poor people and working class people that are really devastated by climate change.
And, I guess, we try to connect the dots on how the discussion here impacts back home. How does it impact that child who suffers from asthma? How does it impact that home that's flooded every time it rains? How does it impact the quality of life in the districts that we represent?
And so, we've tried to find the collective will to not only enact public policy, but also to find financing to address these issues globally. So, this has been a productive discussion – although there's been some absence of certain nations here. I think that the voices of those disproportionately affected have been very strong and will lead the way to ensure that we have, we built back not only better but that we build back green.
Chair Castor. Very good. And, so now at this point, we're happy to take any questions.
Q: Hi, I'm Zack Colman with Politico. Just wanted to say that the G7 countries have committed to ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. The IMF said the fossil fuel industry is grabbing subsidies totaling $11 million per minute. There's legislation in the House to end the subsidies right now. So, Speaker Pelosi, or anyone who can answer this, what's the appetite within the Caucus for actually taking that up and voting for it on the floor?
Speaker Pelosi. I've been trying to get rid of those subsidies for as long as I have been in a position of to do so. Right now, we have tried to counter, to offset, what that is. You have a situation where of some of the leading fossil fuel companies, leading oil companies, make a trillion dollars a year. They need no incentive to drill, but there is in the Congress still support for them to have that.
In order to offset that, to recognize that that shouldn't be – just speaking personally now – I, we have in the legislation our goal. We have a goal. We have a vision. We have a goal. We have a timetable. We have milestones. And what our purpose is, is in our legislation, to reach those milestones, whether it's by 2030 for 50 percent. That is what we will, we will do, and that is what our legislation enables us to do: to reach the President's goals, our goals.
We're in that position because of the work of the Select Committee. The Select Committee has been a world champion. And many of the Members are here, some on this panel, you heard from some of them yesterday. The 2018 class has many Members on the on the panel, and they had their own press conference yesterday. You heard from our, our, our Chairmen yesterday. You heard from some – our Distinguished Chair of the [committee], of the Select Committee meeting, leading us today.
So, we have vision, we have our timetable, we have our milestones. We will meet them without that. But I think that that should be something that's always for consideration.
Congressman Blumenauer. If I –
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you for your question.
Congressman Blumenauer. If I may, Madam Speaker, just to elaborate briefly, I've had that legislation in the House for years. And as you know, there was progress going forward, but we were dealing with the reality of the Senate. That was not going to happen with this immediate package. But that's not the end of the game.
This package that we have moving forward is going to result in dramatic impacts. And this is a path that we're going to continue on, which you've seen in terms of the reaction from many in the private sector. So, we're not giving up on that. There is a, I think an overwhelming majority of the House that would support it, but we're going to deal with the realities in the Senate now and go forward.
Chair Castor. Good. Next question.
Q: Hi, thank you very much. Amy Cassidy for CNN. Question for Speaker Pelosi, please. Is America really ‘back’ yet if it won't sign on to a global pledge to phase out coal by 2030 and members of your own party say America has not recovered its own model authority and action needs to be delivered? Thank you very much.
Speaker Pelosi. Of course. I don't accept the fact that America has not assumed its moral authority in all of this. America is back. Our President was here. He had achieved – there were many successes that were achieved in collaboration. Not dictation or condescension, but in collaboration with other countries, many of whom are ahead of us because we had, of course, the dark period of four years preceding the President’s, President Biden's Administration coming into office. So, we have great confidence. We have great, absolute hope and optimism that the goals will be met.
President Biden was the first person in Congress, he tells me, and I take him for his word – Al Gore may have another date. But, the President's first legislation was in 1986 to address the climate crisis. This is a priority for him. Not only a priority – a value. So, people will say what people will say, but we know that America is back. We've been yearning to be back. In fact, many of us went to Spain, to Madrid, for the previous COP25, to say: ‘We're still in,’ even though the previous President was pulling us out.
But, you don't have to be in, to be in – you have to act, to be in using the word Mr. Huffman used and our distinguished Chair used across the country. Whether it was state, state or local governments, we’re all moving in that direction. The mayors initiatives on climate were very positive. Governors – in my own state of California but other states as well – governors did not wait around for the White House to share that important value: saving the planet for the children.
Congressman Huffman. Could I just speak to that? Look, I think, I hope one of the things that you're hearing from our delegation here is not just a willingness to ask the rest of the world to step up and do better. We have to do that in the United States ourselves. And you're right, we are not there yet. We have disconnects.
We are putting together the most historic package of investments and climate action that our country, maybe the world, has ever seen. And yet within it, we continue – as we tackle methane, for example – to address it by throwing money at the fossil fuel industry, to incentivize them to do what, frankly, we would like to do using other tools like just penalties and regulations. There are just political constraints and realities we're still trying to navigate. And, you can point to contradictions and inconsistencies and inadequacies and all of that, but I hope what you're hearing is a resolve to step up and do everything that we possibly can. And, we will get there.
Chair Castor. Good. Next question.
Q: Thank you very much. Thank you for this press conference. My name is Juliana. I'm from South America, from ComunicareSe Chile. I have two questions. The first one is, can you give me more details about this proposed deal about a carbon tax, $20 carbon tax you may propose? I need some more details on how optimistic you are to approve this proposed bill. And the second question is, we were expecting to hear from former President Obama some mention about $100 billion goal for finance. We didn’t hear it. We also didn't hear it in, actual President Biden. Can you tell us what you are doing to push forward to complete this goal? Thank you very much.
Chair Castor. I think I'll ask Mr. Blumenauer to address the the first part, and then I can address the the climate financing.
Congressman Blumenauer. In the short term, it's going to be very difficult to have a carbon fee or a carbon tax in the United States. We continue to have that on the table. We're looking at other areas: for example, a carbon border adjustment, which is gaining more attention and momentum. We've had conversations with our friends in the European Union who are moving forward. There are alternate ways to be able to do that in the short term. Because of the dynamic we're facing in the Senate, that's not going to happen. In the long term, it will and there are these other mechanisms like the carbon border adjustment that we can proceed with.
Chair Castor. And on the international climate financing, President Biden announced in the U.S. International Climate Finance Plan during the Leader Summit in April – this includes the Administration's intent to double by 2024 the annual public climate finance to developing countries, relative to the average level during the second half of the Obama-Biden Administration.
So, what we'd like to do is have U.S. agencies working with development partners, prioritizing climate in public investments, enhance technical assistance and long-term capacity, aligned support with country needs and priorities and boost investments in adaptation and resilience. The U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, will release a new climate change strategy, and they – that's imminent here at the COP. And the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation will update its development strategy to not only include climate for the first time, but also make investments in climate mitigation and adaptation a top priority.
What you're seeing here is building back after the previous Administration had taken us out of the Paris Climate Agreement, but also took us out of our commitments that we made under previous Administrations to support international climate goals. So, we're Building Back Better in the Congress on clean energy, but we also have a responsibility to Build Back Better when it comes to keeping our commitments to the international community – and we intend to do that with President Biden.
Speaker Pelosi. Madam Chair, if I may on that – Mr. Espaillat, you go first.
Congressman Espaillat. Hay un compromiso con la administración Biden de llenar el vacío que existió por los últimos cuatro años. Por referencia, el financiamiento. Entendemos de que los Estados Unidos está atrasado en los pagos para llegar a los mil millones de dólares pero hay un compromiso y una voluntad política para llegar allí.
Speaker Pelosi. If I may add to what our colleagues have said. Mr. Greg Meeks is here with us this morning, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And he has legislation that is ripened and ready to come to the Floor to address our responsibilities for sharing resources: financial, technological and so many ways to help other countries. That is our moral responsibility to do so. I'm completely unaware of any deal on carbon tax, but I do know that it is something that is talked about and may be a, an option for the future. It is not in our legislation now. Our legislation is predicated on making everyone pay his or her fair share.
Chair Castor. Good. Next question.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you for your question. Oh, if I just may add one more thing, in the course of all of this, in our earlier Select Committee and the rest, we did visit Chile and talked to, listened to the indigenous people there. And that has always been part of our visits and our conversations on this, starting with the indigenous people, the vulnerable throughout the world. So, thank you for your question.
Q: Hi, Ellen Knickmeyer from the Associated Press. Thank you for doing this. You've mentioned Senate realities and political realities that prevent immediate action on things like cutting fossil fuel subsidies and also, I assume, joining in any effort to – in domestic use of coal. Right. There's not any sign in the midterm that, you know, those are going to get any better for Democrats. And in the meantime, you know, we're in the last few years of supposedly having enough time to act to cut emissions significantly to stop the worst of climate change. So, how do you reconcile that, and when, when do you see that getting better so that the U.S. can take those bigger steps?
Congressman Blumenauer. The package that we have going forward deals directly and immediately with being able to reduce carbon emissions. This is the most ambitious package that we've ever seen. Legislation we have coming out of Ways and Means making permanent our tax credits for energy conservation, what's happening with the electrification – they are, all of these areas where we are investing unprecedented sums of money to be able to follow through on American commitments.
We’ll duke out certain things in the long run. The coal industry is dying in the United States. Not because necessarily regulations which Donald Trump unwound, but because of economics. Renewable energy, which we are providing unprecedented incentives for, is more economical. That's the rational decision that business and communities are making.
And so we're going to pursue long-term policy changes, but in the short-term, what we are putting money behind, investments of our government – and what we've seen, commitments from the private sector – those are incontrovertible. And that's where we're headed, and it's going to have a tremendous impact.
Chairwoman Castor. It really, truly is a remarkable package. Here are just a few a few of the details, and I think Mr. Blumenauer is right: there were a number of different pathways here. So, here are a few of the pathways that that we chose in the Build Back Better Act.
Out of Frank Pallone’s Committee, $29 billion in a greenhouse gas reduction fund for nonprofit, state and local climate finance institutions that support the rapid deployment of low- and zero-emission technologies, with at least 40 percent of those investments going to low income and disadvantaged communities. A methane emissions reduction program that's focused on the oil and gas sector, more than $15 billion in multiple loaning grant initiatives at the Department of Energy that will support those innovative technologies.
Remember, under the Recovery Act in 2009, that package had $90 billion of clean energy investments, and that really got us going. But compare that to the over $500 billion in the Build Back Better and put together with the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, another $500 billion investment in transit and rail – and, again, targeting resources to communities on the frontlines that have suffered a disproportionate burden of pollution. This is just a different – this is a different pathway along with the tax credits that are revolutionary. Combine that with the economics. This is, this is our answer. This is an inspirational, transformational package.
And even in the face of close, close numbers in the U.S. Congress, we intend to deliver. And we know that we have to answer our moral call to action. And that's why we feel, here – being here at the COP, in constructive partnership, we're hearing from other countries that they are so enthused that America is back and working with them in a constructive way, with action – as Mr. Huffman said, real action.
Congressman Huffman. If I could just add on to that. I hope one thing you're taking away here is that when you bring up these political constraints – and believe me, many of us wish we could be part of the End of Coal and that pledge. We wish we could have a carbon tax. We wish we could do all kinds of things. But, instead of just throwing up our hands because of these political roadblocks and not taking action, we are finding ways to navigate those problems and still take action. We're tackling every one of the major elements of this climate crisis in a bigger and bolder way than we ever have.
Congressman Espaillat. But we have never been absent. A certain branch of government was absent for four years, but we were there in Madrid, and we're here today. And our leadership in methane has been impressive, and our fiscal commitment in the recent Build Back Better initiative proves that, you know, we're here, we're here for the long haul.
Speaker Pelosi. Because of the constraints of the room, we only have time for one more question. Who’s calling?
Q: Thank you all for your time. Francisco Camacho, the Daily Times. You're talking a lot about these obstacles that you are facing. I myself write for a newspaper in a small county in East Tennessee. I mean, around 70 percent of the county voted for Trump, voted for an agenda that claims that climate change is a hoax. So, what would you all say to that part of America that still either doesn't believe in climate change or doesn't believe it's so much of a threat? And, what would you want to see out of those local governments, out of those counties and out of those cities to help address the problem?
Speaker Pelosi. If I may just say, the most eloquent argument about climate change is the vicious storms that many of these people have suffered, the wildfires that are existing in the West, the storms in the South and the – of the East Coast, as well, the droughts that people are feeling in the country. That's more eloquent than anything that we can say that something else is happening, and it's happening more intensely because of human behavior that must be changed.
Again, overwhelmingly, the American people understand the climate crisis and are supportive of actions for us to manage it and to solve it. I have great confidence, as President Obama said and others have said here, in young people. The future is theirs. We have a responsibility to transfer our planet to them in a responsible way.
So, we prayerfully approach those people – because they are many people of faith, as am I, who believe that this planet is God's creation and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it. But, as I say, those storms hitting home are such an important message.
Congressman Blumenauer. And Central Tennessee saw it vividly, in terms of unprecedented storms, people dying. I mentioned what happened in my – we've all seen it, but Central Tennessee, I think was Exhibit A.
Chair Castor. In fact, what America, just this year, has suffered – over $100 billion worth of damage from climate fueled disasters. And they're right: you cannot ignore people who’ve died out west due to wildfires or the drought, the intractable drought in the Southwest, floods in Tennessee. Hurricane Ida that, that stormed ashore again on the coast of Louisiana and cut power, but then proceeded on to the Northeast where people in New York City were – died because they were flooded out of their basements. Or even the freak storm in Texas, freak winter storm that the froze up the electricity supply, and Texas wasn't connected to the grid, and people died because of cold. Weird in Texas, because the grid wasn't resilient.
But, here's what we do know: no matter what your political affiliation is, people want clean energy. It's much more affordable. It's a lot cheaper, and you don't have the impacts of pollution that – whether that's asthma or the air that we breathe. People want clean energy across America and across the globe. And that's what our historic package, Build Back Better and the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, is going to provide. We're gonna deliver.
Speaker Pelosi. When people suffer these losses and storms, we have moments of silence. We will not be silent on this issue. The narrative across America is one about saving the planet for the good health of our children: clean air, clean water. About good-paying green tech jobs to make us preeminent in the world. And in our communities, to have work – as Mr. Espaillat talks about all the time – workforce development. It's about our national security: conflicts caused by drought and other disasters. Natural disasters are –create competition for resources and for habitat. And, again, a national security issue, to end conflict. And it is also a moral issue, to pass the planet on to future generations.
But I have great confidence that young people, younger people, even grade school kids, understand this better than some Members of Congress. We will learn; the children will lead the way. Thank you all very much.
Chair Castor. Thank you all.