Transcript of Bicameral Congressional Delegation Press Conference at COP25 Madrid
Madrid – Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a bicameral Congressional Delegation to Madrid, Spain for the 2019 United Nations Framework on Climate Change. The bicameral delegation held a press conference to discuss the United States’ commitment to addressing the climate crisis. Below is a full transcript:
Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon everyone. On behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives, indeed the Congress of the United States, I thank the Spanish government for its leadership in combatting the climate crisis.
I thanked just now President Sánchez for hosting the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change here in Spain.
As Prime Minister – President Sánchez has said, ‘We must build a global economy that is prosperous, fair and ecological and socially just,’ and we completely agree.
I also want to commend the government of Chile, President Carolina-Schmidt of the – of COP25, for Chile’s leadership in putting together this conference of the – of parties of 25.
It is – it is pretty exciting for us to be here. For some it is the COP meeting. For me – I – my first one was – Earth – called Earth Summit in 1992, in Rio, Brazil, and we had certain goals then. Clearly, we have not met them. We will meet the goals of this COP25.
In August I was honored to represent the United States at the Brest – in Brest, France, for the G7 Heads of Parliament, where we focused on ‘Parliaments Committed For The Oceans,’ and I am so pleased that this COP25 has that blue ocean priority as part of it.
It’s a privilege to lead this very distinguished Congressional Delegation, from the House and the Senate to continue this crucial conversation.
By coming here, we want to say to everyone: we’re still in. The United States is still in.
I’m honored that we’re joined by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, whom we we’ll be hearing from; Chairman Frank Pallone, of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson, of Science, Space and Technology – did I say she’s from Texas; Chair Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Chair of the Natural Resources Committee; Chair Kathy Castor of Florida, Chair of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. A very distinguished delegation that also includes Betty McCollum, Chair of the Appropriation Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Interior, and also members of the Select Committee on Climate, which Kathy Castor chairs and you’ll hear more about.
So we have members of that Committee, including not only the senior Chairpersons, but also members of our Freshman class. So among the members that are with us: Representative Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, Representative Julia Brownley of California, Representative Jared Huffman of California, Representative Scott Peters of California –
Did I tell you I was from California?
– Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Representative Mike Levin of California, Representative Sean Casten of Illinois and Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado.
Joe Neguse, Sean Casten and Mike Levin are all members of our very distinguished Freshman class.
Our delegation is here to send a message that Congress’s commitment to taking action on the climate crisis is ironclad. We must act, because the climate crisis for us is a matter of public health, clean air, clean water for children’s survival; our economy, advancing green, global – green technologies, which will lift everyone up as we address income disparity in the world; national security, combating extreme weather events and resource competition that drive migration; and others – our values of justice and equality; and our moral responsibility, if you believe, as do I, that this planet is God’s creation, and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it. But if you don’t share that belief, we all agree that we have a moral responsibility to our children to pass on this planet in a very responsible way.
You all know about the latest U.N. Emissions Gap Report. I won’t go into it now unless you ask about it, but I do want to say it says, ‘Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deeper and deeper cuts in emissions.’ And we intend to do that.
So my colleagues will talk about some of the actions we have taken in Congress, what we have learned on this – on this visit.
And I’ll just close by saying – I mentioned the conferences that I was in at Brest for the G7 Heads of Parliament. I will be hosting that in Washington next year, and our theme is: ‘Address the Climate Crisis with Economic and Environmental Justice for All.’ Meeting the needs of the vulnerable states, the vulnerable people, the indigenous people.
What President Sánchez talked about this morning: inclusion and ambition and the rest. What the Secretary General spoke about: a vision that we all share.
Again, coming from the Congress of the United States: we’re still in.
With that, I want to yield to the distinguished Member of the United States Senate, Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Senator Whitehouse. Good morning.
It is a great honor for me to be here with so many powerful House Chairmen, like Chairman Pallone and Chairman Grijalva and Chairman Johnson, Chairman Castor. And, it’s a particularly great matter of pride to be on a delegation lead by Speaker Pelosi.
Speaker Pelosi’s presence here at this COP is not only significant here at this COP is, not only significant in its own right, but it also signals the broad consensus of the United States of America in favor of climate action. At the state level, at the city level, across the public and in a great deal of corporate America, we are indeed still in.
Unfortunately, we are still having to fight our way through a bit of a blockade by the fossil fuel industry. You may hear statements from the fossil fuel industry about what their hopes and expectations are for climate action. My first-hand experience is that the statements from their lips do not match the expenditure of their funds, still dedicated to maintaining a significant political apparatus of denial and obstruction. But that will not prevail.
And the America that you know – the America of leadership, the America of progress, the America of confidence, the America of clean and green energy, people like President Obama and Secretary Kerry’s work at the original Paris COP is something we should all reflect on while we’re here today – that America will be back.
And, as Speaker Pelosi said, yes, we are still in.
Thank you very much.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Senator Whitehouse, and now, I’m pleased to yield to the distinguished Chair of our Select Committee on Climate, Kathy Castor of Florida.
Chairwoman Castor. Well, good afternoon. Buenas tardes.
This COP – the Conference of Parties Number 25 – is also labeled the ‘COP of Action’ and this delegation is here from the United States to say that we are committed to Climate Action Now.
All across the United States of America, cities, states, business, academic institutions are lowering their greenhouse gas emissions and taking climate action and this year, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation including the Climate Action Now Act that says that the United States of America will remain committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
But, we’re also focused on the future, and in March of 2020, under Speaker Pelosi’s leadership and the united consensus of Democrats in the Congress, we will release a Climate Action Plan. A plan for the United States of America, through its congressional committees, to tackle the climate crisis, to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and to begin to adapt in a greater way to the climate crisis and it’s impacts.
This Climate Action Plan will be an extraordinary opportunity to begin to really invest in the clean energy economy and we will see in future years, this transformation in opportunity in the energy sector; in the transportation sector; in agriculture, for our farmers; in how we build buildings, where we build buildings and becoming more energy efficient.
We intend to follow the science. We intend to ensure that vulnerable communities all across America and across the globe have every opportunity to participate in this clean energy economy and transformation.
Together, we will solve the climate crisis, together, and I’m honored to be a part of it along with the outstanding members on the Select Committee on Climate Crisis.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Chair. Now, it is my pleasure to yield to the distinguished Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. In the Congress, they say if water touches it, wind blows on it, if it’s about health, it’s about Wall Street, whatever it is, it’s in his committee.
Chairman Pallone. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Chairman Pallone of New Jersey.
Chairman Pallone. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
I just want to stress what the Speaker Pelosi said is: that ‘we’re still in,’ and, she mentioned that Congress is committed to take action. States are committed to take action. Cities are committed to take action.
And, in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which I chair, and we have several members from our committee that are here with us today, we’ve already done a number of things and we plan on doing more. So, as Kathy Castor said, we passed H.R. 9, which is the legislation in the House that says that we do not want to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and we still want to be in.
But, in addition to that, we’ve already laid out and passed some initiatives. We passed a number of energy efficiency bills out of the Committee; things like giving grants back to the states so they can take efficiency action, which, again, empowers the states to do more and the towns to do more on the local level.
We also have a bill called the Lift America Act, which is – deals with infrastructure needs like grid modernization; and a pipeline safety bill that deals with leaky pipelines and methane pollution; and we set out a goal in our Committee in July of what we call ‘100 by 50’, which means that we are determined to draft legislation for the issues on climate action that are within our Committee, so that we can reach a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
Now, what did I learn today? I learned that the Secretary General, when we met with him, has a similar goal. He talked about the European Union meeting that goal of 2050, and using that example for the United States and other major countries. So, I felt very empowered today, when I came here to hear from others about what we can do and I believe that we are moving forward with that commitment in Congress and elsewhere.
So, I want, again, I want to thank the Speaker for bringing us here. I think we’ve given out the message that we’re still in, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And now, we’ll hear from Texas, the Chair of the [Science, Space and Technology] Committee, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas. Madam Chair.
Chairwoman Johnson. Thank you very much and good afternoon.
I’m delighted to have the experience of being here and seeing the thousands of people who stand together and want to look after the planet. I am delighted to say that I am a part of that group and I have not just started at this conference.
Being Chair of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, we have already addressed a number of issues, and we will continue. We’re using sound science and we’ve also had the experience of many catastrophes throughout our nation, that have forced to give attention to.
I’m also a senior member of Transportation and Infrastructure, where I have really focused on resilience, even where we have the technology under the jurisdiction of my Committee that predicts weather, and it has obviously saved many lives by the information. We have not saved as much materials, as – by the infrastructure, housing, whatever you – because we have not really addressed it very seriously.
But, it’s encouraging to see that people throughout this planet have come here and to share ideas and get ideas and look at the exhibits to see what’s new, see what we can utilize for the future to create a green planet and a lot of green jobs.
I’m dismayed when I hear that to clean the planet and to give attention to the environment causes us to lose jobs. We have not found that in our research.
So, I hope that we will all continue to speak out, speak loudly, help to educate, because this is every aspect of our life that we are talking about. We are talking about our health and environment, for all living creatures, whether it’s on land, water or air.
So, I’m delighted to be here, to have this experience, and my work will continue.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Chair. And now, to our distinguished gentleman from Arizona, the Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, Congressman, Mr. Chairman Raúl Grijalva.
Chairman Grijalva. Thank you, Madam Speaker and I’m glad to have been part of this delegation. I appreciate the opportunity.
There was a comment made at the panel this morning dealing with vulnerable nations and communities and the comment was, ‘Do we delay and pay or plan and prosper?’
And I thought thematically that that was a critical comment. Vulnerability is a reality, as is the urgency to do something immediately about climate change and quit wasting time.
Legislatively, our Natural Resources Committee will be moving forward with legislative packages to deal with the critical issue of climate change, provide adaptation and mitigation to that issue. In the Unites States, our public lands and coastal issues are 25 – 23 percent of the problem and they can be 23 percent of the solution.
And, we need to incorporate the issue of vulnerability. We have to incorporate the issue of human rights. We have to incorporate the issues of the necessity for clean air, clean water, public health protections and there shouldn’t be climate discrimination – there shouldn’t be a misery index, where some people get to suffer more as a consequence of not every body doing their full part to deal with the issue of climate change. I look forward to it.
The United States need to be, and is, committed in the form of the people that are here today, and millions of others. The vast majority of the American people support urgent action on climate change. That’s the issue that we’re following. That’s the opinion that we need to have.
And, I’m certainly glad that I’m here today to learn, listen, and at the same time, to be renewed for what happens next. What happens next is to deal with the issue of climate change with a great degree of urgency.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you Mr. Chair. As you can see from all the presentations – and you’ll hear from some of our other Members during the question – the Q and A – we came here to say: we’re still in it.
But the fact is also, being in it means we’re hear to listen and to learn, to recognize the challenges for the most vulnerable, including, as I mentioned earlier, the indigenous people.
We heard from the scientists this morning – the scientific presentation – the challenge – the words that he used were the challenge of the climate crisis, the reality of taking action. And so, as we take action, we want to do so inclusively and working together to think entrepreneurially and in fresh new ways. Again listening and learning from each other.
And so with that I would like to, with the spirit of opportunity, opportunity, opportunity, give some of you the opportunity to ask a question. First, Jeannette Neumann of Bloomberg.
Let me just tell you that one of the privileges of being the Speaker is when you get a difficult question, you assign it to somebody else.
Q: Well I hope this isn’t a difficult question. If I may, a question on U.S. politics, Speaker Pelosi. During the recess week, what did Democratic lawmakers from swing districts hear from their constituents regarding the impeachment proceedings?
Speaker Pelosi. Well I appreciate your question. If you have another one, you may want to ask it, because we aren’t here to talk about impeachment or the President of the United States. We’re here to talk about – I have a rule of CODELs. When we travel abroad we don’t talk about the President in a negative way, and we save that for home.
But nonetheless, we’re here to talk positively about our agenda to save the planet for future generations. And we in our Congress are doing many more things other than reviewing the possibility of impeaching a president.
Our colleagues have talked about some of the initiatives. Right now we’re talking about a Mexico-U.S.-Canada trade agreement. We’re talking about lowering the cost of prescription drugs. We’re talking about expanding and strengthening the Voting Rights Act. We’re talking about an array of legislative – many of them within the committees of jurisdiction of our chairmen who are here.
But that is only one – we are legislating. We are litigating. We are investigating.
But – let’s – we’re focusing today on legislating. Thank you.
Now we are going to hear from Rafael Cañas of EFE.
Oh, I skipped one.
Q: Hello, I am Rafael Cañas from the Spanish Newswire EFE. In his opening remarks this morning, President – Spanish Acting President Pedro Sánchez said that only a bunch of fanatics deny the evidence of global warming and the climate emergency. Would you apply this category of fanatic to someone in your country? Could be politicians or corporate chiefs. Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Well I think you’re just going to have to ask President Sánchez who he was referring to in that comment.
Does anyone want to comment on any of that? No?
Congresswoman Brownley. We don’t talk about it.
Speaker Pelosi. We don’t talk about it?
It is – one thing – I would say three words that describe how we address this: science, science and science – and maybe four, science again.
So let’s – if we can stick with the science, I think we can come up with some sane solutions to it all.
Isla Binnie from Reuters?
Don’t hesitate at all to chime in my friends.
Q: Thank you, yes. I wanted to ask if given the strong advocacy from some Democratic – many Democratic presidential candidates for a Green New Deal, what it is about that plan that’s stopping you from embracing the idea? Then, whether you could back any of the climate proposals from candidates like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren and if overall you think a Green New Deal is necessary? Thank you very much.
Speaker Pelosi. Well as I said earlier, I was at the Earth Summit in 1992, so I’ve been working on this issue for a very, very long time. And when I was Speaker the first time, I established the Select Committee on Climate Crisis.
We passed, under the leadership of our House – Congressional Democrats, but also signed by President Bush – the greatest energy bill in the history of our country, the equivalent of taking millions of cars off the road, reducing emission standards by – emissions by raising the standards.
So the idea of a very comprehensive strategy on this is very important to all of us. I salute the enthusiasm that it has engendered, but I do think that the idea of working together is very, very important. And I think there are many aspects of the Green New Deal that we have all been advocating for a long time.
We do want, though, to have our friends in labor at the table – friends in the labor movement that is, at the table, and we want to have the private sector at the table and the rest, so that we can really produce results to reduce the emissions, because this is a generational and existential threat to humanity.
So I salute what they are doing, but in terms of how we go forward – that’s what Congresswoman Castor’s Select Committee on Climate is doing and then will recommend to the legislative committees for legislative actions and perhaps many of those aspects.
Now in terms of the two presidential candidates, I don’t know what particular things – I don’t follow every thing that they – you know – I don’t know everything that they’re referencing exactly. So I can’t really say whether I support it, but it probably is something within the realm of what we’ve all been advocating for a long time.
I’m going to defer to Congresswoman – the others, but before the Chairperson is up, I want to see if any of my colleagues have something to add on that.
Congresswoman Castor. Well, I’ll start by saying we embrace the ambition of the Green New Deal.
What is happening now in the United States Congress is the hard work that is necessary to develop the policy proposal – the detailed policy proposals in the energy sector – how we decarbonize the energy sector, same for the transportation sector, agriculture, energy efficiency.
Now, when you develop detailed policy proposals, you’re going another layer deeper. Then, all of the legislative committees, over the coming months, will turn those policy proposals into concrete legislation.
We hope to build bipartisan support for a number of them, and we must do this with a sense of urgency. All of the science points us in the direction that we do not have time to waste, so we do not intend to waste any time. The time for action is now.
And isn’t it – isn’t it refreshing to have presidential candidates in the United States of America debating the fine points of climate action? It’s inspiring, and we intend to meet the challenge.
Congressman Casten. Sean Casten, I’m a new freshman member. I spent 20 years in the energy industry before I got into this new line of work.
I would submit to you that giving access to energy has been our greatest single success as a species and the hardest problem we’ve ever tackled.
We would not sustain the population and the standard of living we all have in this room, without figuring out how to do that. Figuring out how to maintain that access to energy in a zero carbon way is an order of magnitude harder.
And what has happened with the youth activism, what’s happened with the discussion across the political spectrum about people saying this problem is so urgent that we cannot afford to get bogged down in the complexity – I accept the first part of that. We have to deal with the urgency, but it’s a really hard and complicated problem. And I’m delighted we’re talking about it, but it’s going to be complicated, and it’s going to take all of our collective work.
Chairman Pallone. If I could, Nancy. I don’t think there is anything inconsistent with what we’re trying to achieve and the Green New Deal.
If you listen – you know – to what the Green New Deal says – you know – it talks about 2030. It primarily talks about 2030 and the power sector.
You mentioned a presidential candidate. I remember when Bernie Sanders, for example, talked about the Green New Deal and said, ‘Well 2030 for the power sector, 2050 for everything else beyond the power sector.’
So even he in discussing the Green New Deal – and he’s one of the champions – is very consistent with what we’re saying when we say – you know – 100 by 2050.
And it’s also consistent with what the Secretary General said today. He said that – he used the European Union, and he said that they’re trying to achieve 45 percent in reduction of greenhouse gasses by the end of the next decade, 2030.
But he said, ‘We want – it’ll take us till 2050 to get to carbon neutral,’ which is the same thing as our 100 by ’50 in the Energy and Commerce Committee’s proposal.
So none of this is inconsistent, and we have to dispel this notion that we’re not incorporating the Green New Deal and a lot of the ideas that – of the people who are so enthusiastic about it.
And I don’t think you should in any way think that anything we’re saying is inconsistent. I really don’t.
Speaker Pelosi. But I also just want to add that one of the things that – one of the many things that we have in common is this is – we’re not about incrementalism. This is about being transformative, and that’s what this conference is about as well. Being transformative in those solutions that we advance, because time is taking its toll on the planet.
So we thank them for the enthusiasm and other enthusiasms that are out there as well – that have been out there for a long time and growing very impatient and rightfully so.
Mr. Daniel Dombey please, from the Financial Times.
Q: Speaker, if I could just tempt you just a little bit to talk about an international issue –
Speaker Pelosi. Is this Daniel Dombey?
Q: This is indeed Daniel Dombey. President Trump –
Speaker Pelosi. I thought so.
Q: I’m very glad you’re so on the ball. President Trump announced today tariffs on Argentinian and Brazilian aluminum and steel. This is obviously an international issue. It’s a trade issue. It’s not just a domestic politics issue. Wondering if you have any thoughts about that in terms of trade tensions more generally and international cooperation?
Speaker Pelosi. That’s news to me. I did not realize President Trump had done that, so I don’t know the context or the purpose of why he is doing that.
But I do think that when were talking about trade, we have to talk about it in a way that – for example, China is a big issue for all of us on trade, and I think that – that the way we counter some of the violations of our own trade relationships – the violations of our trade relationship with China is to do so in a multilateral way.
I don’t know why the President did what he did this morning or what the justification was. Do any of you know?
Speaker Pelosi. You’re breaking news for us here, but let’s just say that globalization has its challenges. We all need to recognize how much leverage we would have if we worked together in meeting the challenges of those who do abuse our trade relationships, and I’ll just have to see what his basis is for what he did.
As I said earlier though, we are hoping to come near a conclusion on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. We still have some issues that relate to enforcement, because if you don’t have enforcement, you just have a nice conversation and a list of nice things. But you do not have a fair deal for workers in any of the countries, and that’s what we want, not just a good deal for American workers, but for all workers, so that everyone can thrive that has an impact on our economies, on migration, on so many – and international relations – and again puts a better face on globalization, which is inevitable as we know.
Thank you all very much. I again want to thank Spain for its hospitality, Chile for being the intellectual resource in all this, as well as the United Nations, as we commented, the Secretary General. He showed a great vision for the future in terms of climate. He showed a great knowledge of the challenges we face and the need for action now. And he showed strategic thinking about how to get it all done. And again, we can’t do it without working together – seeing the opportunity that is there for everyone.
My colleagues, does anyone want to say anything?
Members. We’re still in. We’re here.
Speaker Pelosi. We’re still in. Thank you all.