The Democratic congressional delegation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has led to the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, carries the Biden administration's message: America is back on the global climate stage.
But one member of the delegation, Congress's most prominent climate activist, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, added a caveat Tuesday: the U.S. still has to back up its words with action.
“We have to actually deliver the action to get the respect for it internationally, to get the credit," Ocasio-Cortez told reporters Tuesday at a panel on the summit with other young Democrats who swept into Congress in 2018 on platforms emphasizing far bigger U.S. efforts on climate. Ocasio-Cortez was answering a question about whether the United States had regained its standing globally in the fight against climate change.
Former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris climate accord. President Joe Biden rejoined the global accord this year as one of his first acts in office. But Biden so far has been unable to get his biggest climate initiative, $555 billion in climate legislation that would drive down U.S. emissions from climate-wrecking fossil fuels, passed by Congress.
“We have to draw down emissions to get credit for being committed on climate change. It's really that simple," Ocasio-Cortez said.
Pelosi came at the midpoint of the climate talks in Glasgow. She is leading a sizable Democratic House delegation with 21 other lawmakers, including five House committee chairs.
Pelosi's is one of several congressional delegations that have turned up at the climate talks. That includes both mixed Democratic and Republican delegations, and all-Republican groups that are former strangers to climate summits who reject the Trump administration's climate denial and want to curb global warming but on low-regulation terms.
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Biden adopted the phrase “America is back” as he jumped back into global efforts to stave off a full-on climate crisis, reviving international alliances and negotiations that Trump turned his back on. Democratic lawmakers used Biden's slogan frequently Tuesday.
But Biden has the slimmest of Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate. That has allowed two holdout Democratic senators to block legislation that includes what would be the United States' biggest-ever investment in cleaner energy.
The congressional holdouts left Pelosi having to brag about Biden's crucial climate efforts only in the future tense.
“Our congressional delegation comes here fresh from advancing ... the most ambitious and consequential climate legislation,” Pelosi told reporters at a different news conference Tuesday at the summit.
Pelosi noted that moves by the Biden administration to cut U.S. emissions of methane — a potent agent of climate damage that leaks from natural gas facilities, oilfields, farms and landfills — has helped spur more than 100 nations to join a nonbinding methane pledge.
It's one of several climate initiatives that Biden is pursuing that don't require a vote in Congress, but that can be overturned by future administrations.
Ocasio-Cortez credited Biden with waging a high-stakes fight to get the climate legislation through Congress but urged that future U.S. climate action include grassroots advocates, benefit working people and marginal communities, and create jobs, she said.
“We're not just back. We are different,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
She also had a message to young activists who have pressed governments to cut climate-damaging fossil fuel pollution: "I would say, ‘Stay in the streets. Keep pushing.’”