Energy & Environment

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-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in the House and Sen. Bernie Sanders (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 Trump 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.{mosads}

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 McConnell (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 Klobuchar (Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) Cory Booker (N.J.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (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

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Amy Klobuchar AOC Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Climate change Cory Booker Donald Trump Donald Trump Earl Blumenauer Earl Blumenauer Elizabeth Warren Kirsten Gillibrand Mitch McConnell

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