Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders lead push to declare climate emergency

Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders lead push to declare climate emergency
© Greg Nash

Progressive lawmakers are pushing a resolution to declare a climate emergency in the U.S., demanding “a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address” climate change.

Sponsored by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders to join youth climate strikers in Iowa Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Progressives' campaign strategy: Willful ignorance MORE (D-N.Y.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerHillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Progressives oppose spending stopgap measure over surveillance authority extension House to hold markup Wednesday on marijuana decriminalization bill MORE (D-Ore.) in the House and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard moves to New Hampshire ahead of primary Sanders to join youth climate strikers in Iowa Saagar Enjeti unpacks why Kamala Harris's campaign didn't work MORE (I-Vt.) in the Senate, the resolution calls climate change the result of human activity that requires “a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States.”

“This is a political crisis of inaction. It’s going to take political will, political courage in order for us to treat this issue with the urgency that the next generation needs,” Ocasio-Cortez said on a call with reporters to discuss the resolution. 

Blumenauer said he got the idea from President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE after he declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year in order to transfer funds to build a border wall.

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The climate resolution, which is expected to be introduced in the House later Tuesday, would not open up disaster funds for battling climate change, but Democrats said they planned to use the measure to call for swift action from Congress.

“It’s past time,” Blumenauer said. “Congress needs to understand this is an emergency and act like it.”

Ocasio-Cortez stressed a 12-year time frame for taking action on climate change, something she said is not a deadline for Congress to pass legislation but for a plan to take effect and actually start limiting carbon pollution.

Even if such a resolution did pass the Democratic-led House, it would be unlikely to be considered in the GOP-led Senate. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Schumer briefs Democrats on impeachment trial 'mechanics' Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators MORE (R-Ky.) said in May that a bill to recommit the U.S. to the Obama-era Paris climate accord would "go nowhere" in the Senate after it passed the lower chamber.

Still, the resolution could have implications for the 2020 White House race.

Margaret Klein Salamon, founder of the The Climate Mobilization, one of the groups that helped develop the resolution, said the group plans to ask all presidential candidates to commit to declaring a national emergency for climate change. Democractic presidential hopefuls Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKrystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates Teamsters to host presidential forum with six 2020 Democrats Democrats hit gas on impeachment MORE (Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHarris posts video asking baby if she'll run for president one day Warren hits Bloomberg, Steyer: They have 'been allowed to buy their way' into 2020 race Supreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade MORE (N.Y.) Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerLGBTQ advocates slam Buttigieg for past history with Salvation Army Harris posts video asking baby if she'll run for president one day Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates MORE (N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris posts video asking baby if she'll run for president one day Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates Saagar Enjeti unpacks why Kamala Harris's campaign didn't work MORE (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard moves to New Hampshire ahead of primary LGBTQ advocates slam Buttigieg for past history with Salvation Army Saagar Enjeti unpacks why Kamala Harris's campaign didn't work MORE (Mass.) are also co-sponsors of the resolution.

Sanders, one of the highest-polling Democratic presidential candidates who has yet to release a climate plan, said he will release a climate policy and stressed the need to transition away from fossil fuels and engage other countries in a global plan to combat climate change. 

“No plan will be implemented unless we have the courage to take on the greed and dishonesty of the fossil fuel industry. They lie every single day. They try to obfuscate what they are doing in terms of carbon emissions and what that means for the planet,” Sanders said.

“This is not a scientific issue,” he said, adding that scientists have made clear what is needed to battle climate change. “It’s a question of political will.”

Ocasio-Cortez and Blumenauer likewise said addressing the fossil fuel industry would need to be part of any plan.

Blumenauer specifically identified the Green New Deal, sprawling legislation sponsored by Ocasio-Cortez and introduced earlier this year, as the best framework for dealing with the climate emergency.

Sanders also stressed the need to battle “the ignorance of Donald Trump” as part of the fight against climate change.

On Monday, Trump claimed the Green New Deal would “crush the dreams of the poorest Americans and disproportionately harm minority communities."

Declaring a national climate emergency would build on similar resolutions passed by local and regional governments in other countries.

More than 700 such resolutions have passed globally, according to the International Climate Emergency Forum, though just 19 are from cities in the U.S., many of them from local governments in California.

Updated at 3:59