Nancy Pelosi received a standing ovation for her first address as Speaker of the House, with her firm comments on climate change standing out at a time when the Trump administration has largely rejected the issue.
Pelosi, who was elected speaker of the house last week, described the climate crisis as “the existential threat of our time”. She said it’s a “crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions.”
The comments are encouraging in seeing the US move forward on the issue, however the Democrats are split on the approach that should be taken, with progressive saying more ambitious initiatives should be pursued.
“The American people understand the urgency. The people are ahead of the Congress. The Congress must join them,” Pelosi said.
The standing ovation came following her line that: “The entire congress must work to put an end to the inaction and the denial of science that threaten the future.”
Pelosi’s latest election as speaker means she remans the only woman to have served in the position, having previously held the gavel from 2007 to 2011. She was described by incoming Democratic caucus chair Representative Hakeem Jeffries as: “A woman of faith, a loving wife, a mother of five, a grandmother of nine, a sophisticated strategist, a legendary legislator, a voice for the voiceless.”
Last year Pelosi broke the record for the longest House speech, when she shared an eight-hour filibuster in order to push for a vote on the Dreamers program.
Back on climate change, Pelosi declared that: “This is a public health decision for clean air and clean water; an economic decision for America’s global preeminence in green technology; it’s a security decision to keep us all safe; and a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation.
“We have no illusions that our work will be easy and that all of us in this chamber will always agree. But let us pledge that when we disagree, we respect each other and we respect the truth.”
She also announced a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, declaring that the entire Congress “must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future.”
Progressives including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Democrat-controlled 116th session of Congress are pushing to go further, demanding a Green New Deal, a set of policy goals that aim to transition the economy to renewable energy, while also promoting equality and providing jobs. They say Pelosi’s ‘Select Committee’ does not go far enough in moving the US away from fossil fuels.
Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that an “urgent transformation” is needed in order to prevent some of the worst predictions on climate change. The report found that the world looks set to breach the 1.5 degree mark as early as 2040 and then the two degree mark in the 2060s.
The new look Congress features more than 100 women for the first time.