With the UN climate summit just over a week away, some New York Democrats are warning that America’s moral authority on the world stage will take a hit if the president shows up empty handed.
The summit, set to take place in Glasgow at the start of November, is a potential make or break moment for the future of the globe. Leaders from around the world are aiming to reach a commitment to avoid climate catastrophe by stemming global warming.
“We got to show up and not just talk about it, but we got to be about it,” said Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, arguing Congress must hand President Joe Biden a legislative win on climate policy to take with him to Scotland.
“Our country has to prove its mettle on climate,” she said.
Earlier this year, Biden pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The EPA has taken a variety of regulatory actions to help reach that goal.
But critically, on Capitol Hill, Biden’s climate push remains in limbo.
Proposed legislation is caught up in the ongoing Democratic fight over his major spending plan. And Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is opposing one of the signature proposals in the bill, a clean electricity program.
Asked about the upcoming summit and the lack of congressional action so far, Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres expressed frustration, saying, “If we cannot lead on climate change here at home, then what moral authority do we have to lead abroad?”
The U.S. is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, behind China.
So far, local government and private sector climate action has helped move the needle, says Scott Sklar, who teaches about sustainable energy at the George Washington University; However, he argues that if the U.S. does not adopt key climate policies, it could make it harder for the globe as a whole to avoid dangerous temperature increases.
“Even if policies just stay status quo, we're moving significantly in the right direction,” he said. “The real fundamental issue is, is it fast enough to have an impact on the planet?”
Congressional negotiations over the president’s Build Back Better plan continue, though it remains unclear how close to a deal they will be by the time the summit starts, let alone if they will have voted on the measure.