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-CortezThe Memo: Bloomberg's 2020 moves draw ire from Democrats Sanders: Potential Bloomberg run shows 'arrogance of billionaires' Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez see 'class solidarity' in report Bezos asked Bloomberg to run MORE (D-N.Y.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerCongress should lift the ban on medical cannabis access for military veterans Hillicon Valley: Google buying Fitbit for .1B | US launches national security review of TikTok | Twitter shakes up fight over political ads | Dems push committee on 'revenge porn' law Progressives urge end to mass phone data collection program MORE (D-Ore.) in the House and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJuan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete Democrats on edge as Iowa points to chaotic race Democrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal 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 TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem 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 McConnellThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week 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 KlobucharDemocrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal Republicans, Democrats brace for first public testimony in impeachment inquiry Klobuchar: A woman with Buttigieg's experience would not be on presidential debate stage MORE (Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate panel clears controversial Trump court pick Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Harris proposes keeping schools open for 10 hours a day MORE (N.Y.) Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race Poll: Biden support hits record low of 26 percent The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump demands Bidens testify MORE (N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisJuan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete Democrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal Women who inspired 'Hidden Figures' film will be honored with congressional gold medals MORE (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJuan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete Trump DACA fight hits Supreme Court Democrats on edge as Iowa points to chaotic race 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