Energy & Environment

Ocasio-Cortez at climate summit: America is ‘not just back, we’re different’

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), speaking at the COP26 international climate summit Tuesday, praised environmental activists and said their efforts had reframed climate discussions at the policy level.

The New York congresswoman echoed other U.S. officials at the summit, saying that America “is back” when it comes to international climate policy. However, she clarified, “when we say the United States is back, it’s not just that we’re back in the way that the U.S. was pursuing climate policy before … we’re not just back, we’re different.”

Ocasio-Cortez discussed her experiences demonstrating against the Dakota Access pipeline with members of the Lakota Sioux nation, saying that at that time, “I think we see many institutions saying, alright, the folks making policy, we’re the serious ones in the room, and we’re going to do the best we can, and everyone who’s outside protesting, it’s good but we’re the serious ones, they don’t have any plans.”

However, she said, the influence of grassroots activism throughout the Trump presidency helped to create “an alternative path, an alternative framework for how we can pursue climate justice.”

That approach, she said, helped to create ambitions beyond the “pure market-based solutions” of previous years, such as cap-and-trade legislation and carbon taxes. The introduction of policies such as the Green New Deal to the conversation, she said, fed an understanding that “we can’t actually just pursue decarbonization … it has to center a benefit for the working class, for the vulnerable, for frontline communities, people of color, women, underserved communities.”

Ocasio-Cortez also praised President Biden’s receptiveness to the grassroots on climate issues, saying it had contributed to “the translation of that grassroots frame into federal policy.” She pointed to the inclusion of a Civilian Climate Corps in the Democratic social spending bill being passed through budget reconciliation.

On Friday, Ocasio-Cortez was one of six Democrats who voted against the smaller $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, which House progressives had said they would only vote for in combination with the larger reconciliation bill.

Ocasio-Cortez, who attended the summit with a delegation of House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), spoke to reporters as she arrived in Glasgow, saying “we’re here to push” on climate, The New York Times reported.

“It’s time for us to reexamine our first-world and global governments, to reexamine their priorities about what is possible, and really try to push them on the boundaries of that,” she said.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Climate change COP26 infrastructure bill Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi social spending package

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