Pelosi: Climate change will be 'early part' of Democrats' 2021 agenda

Pelosi: Climate change will be 'early part' of Democrats' 2021 agenda
© Greg Nash

As wildfires rage across California and the West, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump is betting big on the suburbs, but his strategy is failing 'bigly' Trump orders flags at half-staff to honor 'trailblazer' Ginsburg MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday pledged that major climate change legislation would be an “early part” of Democrats’ 2021 agenda if her party wins back the White House this fall.

“So when Joe BidenJoe BidenMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Trump expects to nominate woman to replace Ginsburg next week Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral MORE says, ‘Build back better,’ that better includes building back in a way that is resilient, that is green, that protects the planet,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “So I don’t know if it’s one bill or it permeates a number of bills, but it is absolutely a priority.”

Pelosi specifically singled out the Climate Action Now legislation, passed by the House in May, which would recommit the U.S. to the Paris Agreement on climate change. She pointed to the Democrats’ “Moving Forward” green infrastructure package, which would require states to account for climate change before undertaking projects and meet certain greenhouse gas emission goals when they accept funding.   

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Pelosi also highlighted a report by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis that Democrats and scientists see as a “road map” for fighting climate change.

The Speaker’s remarks come as wildfires in the West have killed at least seven people, destroyed thousands of homes and scorched more than 2 million acres. A day earlier, Pelosi’s congressional district in San Francisco was blanketed with thick smoke from the fires, blocking out the sun and producing an eerie, surreal landscape that glowed orange.

Pelosi said her phone has been ringing off the hook as family and constituents from the Bay Area reach out to her about the conditions.

“It’s a terrible moment for us in California. … Wildfire ash is blanketing all of the areas beyond where the fire is, in the Bay Area, turning the skies to orange,” Pelosi said. "It's dark; it's dark there. It's morning and they're waiting for the sun to come up and it's dark all day. They need ... to drive with their headlights on."

The first thing Democrats will do if they control all levers of power in January, Pelosi said, is pass major coronavirus relief legislation to help safely “open up our schools and our economy.” That would be the No. 1 priority for Democrats, she said.

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“A pandemic descends upon you and eclipses everything,” she said. “Preserving the planet for future generations is the challenge to this generation. We’re late. America is not a leader in this [with] the Republican presidents,” Pelosi said.

“President Obama did a great job in Paris with the Paris accords. Of course, President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE defied science, [has a] contempt for science, walked away from that.”

In recent weeks, Democrats — hopeful they can retain control of the House and take back the White House and Senate — have been debating what issues they should tackle first in 2021, whether it’s immigration reform, health care, gun control or climate change. 

But on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerVideo of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year Pelosi orders Capitol flags at half-staff to honor Ginsburg MORE (D-N.Y.) also turned his attention to the fires wreaking havoc in the West as he rolled out Senate Democrats’ THRIVE Act addressing climate change, racial injustice and the economy.

"The proof of the urgency of this situation is literally in the air around us right now. Wildfires are rampaging across the West, across an area the size of the entire state of Connecticut, polluting the lungs of countless Americans. If anyone needed any proof of how disastrously and quickly climate change is affecting our globe, look out West,” Schumer told reporters.

"Right now, millions of Americans are witnessing climate change in the ash and orange skies outside their windows. These catastrophic events have instigated and exacerbated climate change, and they're not new,” Schumer continued. “Worse yet, Trump and the GOP poured gasoline on the fire by recklessly ripping apart vital environmental regulatory protections and recklessly pursuing more, not less, fossil fuel consumption production."

Rebecca Beitsch contributed.