Speaker Nancy Pelosi

U.S. House of Representatives

Pelosi Remarks at G7 Speakers’ Meeting Working Session on Oceans

September 6, 2019
Press Release

Brest, France – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the G7 Speakers’ Meeting working session on “Parliaments Committed for the Oceans.”  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President.  I want to join our colleagues in thanking you for bringing us together for this most enlightening, informative and frankly hopeful meeting.  You have been an inspiration to us throughout.  And when you weren’t, others that you called in were.

It’s been just wonderful and a very hard act to follow next year, wherever we decide to meet. 

But in any case, I’m very honored to be here.  I had the privilege of being with you and your colleagues, we came for the 75th anniversary of Normandy.  And I thank you again for your magnificent hospitality that you extended at that time.  That day, we honored one of the greatest acts of heroism in our country and this morning you gave us the privilege of honoring the sailors from World War I.  Thank you for including us in that reverence.

Now, it’s an honor to come here and confront one of the great challenges of our time: the climate crisis and its devastating impact on the oceans. 

Thank you again for your tremendous leadership.  Your opening statement today, in some ways, reiterates some of your spontaneous remarks last night.  A very strong commitment – knowledge-based, science-based, evidence-based – very serious, very valuable.

On behalf of the House of Representatives, I thank you and the French government for your leadership to protect climate.  As President Macron said when he addressed the Joint Session of Congress last year, ‘There is no planet B.’

So, again, I thank you, again, for your emphasis on parliaments and our interactions together, as we address the threat to our planet.

Again, it’s fitting that we meet in Brest, where the impact of the climate crisis and to the oceans are seen firsthand. 

As you have informed us, we see in the tens of thousands of good-paying jobs that are at risk from the pollution and warming waters that are killing off fish and shellfish. 

Also at risk is public health, sparked by the toxic algae blooms and the choking of beaches and waterways.  Risk – not happening necessarily, but the risk. 

And the risk of rapid erosion of the beautiful coastline which threatens the dynamism of Brittany’s world-class tourism industry.  Scientists predict that this shoreline could retreat 100 meters in this century alone.  And we can stop that.  And we must.

One ocean.  I think it was very impressive to see the map.  One ocean, you have three oceans in Canada, we have one ocean in the world, Mr. Stanton, and we’re all impacted by – our distinguished, and our distinguished colleague from Germany said yesterday that they are not on the oceans, but affected by the oceans, nonetheless. 

I have said to the President of China, ‘You don’t, you are not’ – both of them, Hu and now Xi – ‘You are not on the Arctic Circle, but you are affected by the thermal management of the planet that is being eroded there and you are contributing to that erosion.’ 

So, we are all connected one way or another.  The climate crisis is melting sea ice, raising sea levels, acidifying and warming the oceans.  We saw some of that earlier today, impacting food safety, health and financial security of 2.4 billion people who live less than 100 kilometers from the coast.

There is illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing of more than 30 percent of the world stocks are overfished at a time that fish consumption is soaring, surpassing population growth. 

The losses from overfishing are estimated to be – this is a staggering figure – around $83 billion a year, a year.  And rising pollution, which is choking off marine life – poisoning not only our oceans which cover, as we all know and have been hearing all day, 70 percent of the planet.  It’s not just the 70 percent though, it’s the entire globe.  By 2050, this has been referenced again and again, there’ll be more than, more tons of plastic – has been referenced maybe the same, but nonetheless – as much or more tons of plastic than fish in the ocean.

And this morning, of course, we had the beautiful presentation on the natural – plastics presentation, that talked about prevention: recycling and recycling and recycling and recycling and recycling – not just three to five times, but infinitely – and innovation.  That gives us – that scientific basis gives us hope. 

I identify – I associate myself with the remarks of many who’ve spoken, [President Ferrand], in particular, in this respect.  The threat to the oceans is a threat to humanity itself.  Every aspect of our lives, our health, our ability to feed ourselves, our financial security, our jobs, our national security, global security is at risk. 

Taking action on the ocean is a public health decision.  I always say the climate issue, and now particularly oceans, can be dealt with as a public health decisions for clean air, clean water and combatting the climate crisis.  As your meetings all day have confirmed, the oceans are our most powerful climate buffer, capturing nearly 30 percent of CO2 released each year, 93 percent of the excess heat from emissions.  Without oceans acting as a sponge, the Earth’s temperature would be 95 degrees warmer over time.

It’s also a public health decision for the sustenance of the over 3 billion people who rely on seafood as their primary source of protein, whose health and well-being are at risk for overfishing, pollution and the impact of climate crisis.  We keep coming back to that.

The latest UN panel report, the IPCC, the International [Panel on Climate Change], found that marine resources are being exploited at ‘unprecedented’ rates, threatening humanity’s ability to feed itself.  With more than ten percent of the world’s population is undernourished and threats to the food supply risk accelerating the crisis of food insecurity and poverty.  So, I see this, as I’ll say later, as a justice issue, as well.

Protecting the oceans is also an economic issue.  It’s a public health issue.  It’s a jobs issue.  An economic decision with the creation of good, green paying jobs, safeguarding the $2.3 trillion ocean economy and generating countless new clean energy jobs by building climate-resilient infrastructure.

Public health.  Jobs.  It is a security issue, as well.  It’s a security decision to combat the extreme weather events and resource competition that drive migration around the world.  Last week, I was in the Northern Triangle in Central America, where we were told by farmers, they were leaving, they were migrating, because the drought had made it impossible for them to farm – to farm.  So again, contributing to climate migration.

Again, it is a security issue.  Our Department of Defense recently concluded that, ‘The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans and instillations.’ 

This is because rising sea levels, encroachment of deserts, famine, competition for habitats.  All competition for resources and habitat are cause for conflict, and again, protecting the oceans is a way to mitigate and minimize that.

Finally, we must protect the oceans as a moral decision.  Public health, economic, and jobs, security.  It’s a moral decision.  If you believe, as I, that this is God’s creation, we must have a responsibility to be good stewards of it.  But, even if you don’t share that view, we all understand we have a moral responsibility to pass this planet on to future generations in a healthy, sustainable way.

And as our distinguished colleague from Germany, President Schäuble, has said, young people know.  They know.  They’ve grown impatient with excuses for not addressing this.

And, I will just tell this one anecdote.  I, last year – not this year, but last year – every year, there’s a Science March in the U.S.  And, last year it was in Seattle.  When I was there, I spoke on the program.  Following me, thank heavens, on the program the next presentation was from a kindergarten student who saw a show on TV about how straws, plastic straws, were hurting animals in the ocean.

So, she started a campaign to end plastic straws.  When I told her how impressed I was about her leadership, she said, ‘Oh yes, and I brought other speakers here today, some are as old as eight years old.’

[Laughter]

So, at that age, they knew that everything in nature is connected and this plastic straw business had to stop.  So, we have to find other ways to attract, to find solutions for young people to participate. 

The future of the planet belongs to them and we owe them a responsible transition.

When Pope Francis visited the United States and spoke at the White House and at the Capitol before a Joint Session of Congress, he addressed the climate crisis as air pollution.  And, it went over big because, for some people, climate, oceans seem a little remote to them.  But air pollution is very immediate to them and to their families.

I thanked him for that because it made it to everyone.  As he wrote in his encyclical Laudato Si’, ‘The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.’

Protecting the common good is, therefore, a matter of justice.  If we do not increase climate resilience, the most vulnerable among us, indigenous people in developing nations, indigenous people period, people in developing nations, communities of color will be hardest hit and first. 

That is why I will be pleased next year to host the 2020 G7 Speakers Meeting in the United States.  Definite location to be determined.  Which will be dedicated to taking your lead, Mr. President, addressing the climate crisis, certainly continuing our conversation on the oceans, but this will be called ‘Addressing the Climate Crisis with Economic and Environmental Justice for All.’

We do – we must commit to big thinking and bold action to combat the two great challenges: the climate crisis and income disparity, which are fundamentally linked. 

All of us, as representatives of G7 nations, which have contributed the most to the crisis, frankly, have a special responsibility to act and a special opportunity to make a difference.

And, for that reason, I thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership in this statement that you have challenged us with and that I am very proud to support.  You have given us an opportunity to bring the power of the parliament, whether that is the power of the purse, the power to deploy funding that is needed for ocean research, resilience, monitoring and mitigation efforts. 

Parliaments have the opportunity to convene diverse communities, people of faith and concerned scientists, labor and business leaders, environmentalists and local and state and federal governments in search of an innovative, effective solution.

We, as parliamentarians, have the opportunity to reverse a growing anti-government, anti-science agenda that ignores the facts and puts big corporate financial interests ahead of the public interest.  That’s why I was so pleased to hear, in your comments earlier, talk about evidence-based, science-based decision making on all of this. 

Believe it or not, there are some places where the science — in fact, there was a decision made by our Administration in the United States, that we would not use science as a basis for making decisions about the Endangered Species Act, just to make your day.

Today, as Speaker of the House, I am here to send a message – especially among our young people – America’s commitment to combating the climate crisis is ironclad.  Ironclad. 

We passed in the House, among our [top] ten bills passed, when we took the Majority, Climate Action Now, embracing, once again, the Paris Accord and asking the Administration, if not that, what are their plans?

The climate crisis and energy security are flagship issues for us.  Again, we have achieved landmark progress, and in a bipartisan way, under President Bush.  He didn’t subscribe to climate, but he worked with us on the energy issue, and we passed the biggest energy bill in the history of our country, the equivalent of taking millions of cars off the road by raising emissions standards.

We now have a Select Committee, again on Climate Crisis, chaired by Kathy Castor of Florida, who knows full well the impact of the climate crisis on hurricanes, right now, affecting her region. 

So, let us remember the message that Pope Francis enshrined in his encyclical, ‘We are one single human family.  There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.’

As Speakers of the G7, let us work together as parliamentarians, committed to work to the globalization of action, not the indifference to the climate crisis, so that we can achieve justice and better futures for every member of our human family and give confidence to our young people that they are, first and foremost, our priority.

Thank you again for your leadership.  I look forward to hosting this important event next year, and you have set a high standard in the ideas and in the presentations and in the beautiful hospitality.  I thank you for that, again, and yield back the balance of my time.