AOC & Bernie Sanders: Congress should declare ‘climate emergency’

US Democrats from progressive faction announce new resolution on mass mobilisation to be introduced in House, Senate.

AOC Bernie
Climate activists have pushed for the Democratic party to take a bolder stance in advance of the 2020 election [Saul Loeb/AFP]

On the heels of massive flooding in the United States capital, leading Congressional Democrats from the party’s progressive wing have announced their support for a new resolution calling for a climate emergency declaration.

In a call with the media on Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Representative Earl Blumenauer joined activist group The Climate Mobilization to recognise the need for mass mobilisation to halt and reverse the consequences of climate change.

They plan to introduce the resolution this week in the US House of Representatives and as early as next week in the US Senate.

The resolution says that “2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 were the four hottest years on record and the 20 warmest years on record have occurred within the past 22 years”.

During the last half decade, it said, the “total costs of natural disasters…[were] approximately $100 billion per year”.

The Climate Mobilization has an ongoing petition demanding that Congress issue a climate emergency declaration to catalyse national action to reverse global warming.

Dozens of other environmental groups – including Extinction Rebellion and Mothers Out Front – have signed the petition as well.

More than 700 governments in 16 countries have already declared a climate emergency. New York City is the largest metropolis to do so. And last week, the city council in Los Angeles voted to form an Office of Climate Emergency Mobilization.

The call on Wednesday addressed “the need to initiate a WWII-scale emergency speed mobilization of all available resources to solve the climate crisis”, said a statement from organisers.

‘First step’

Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director of The Climate Mobilization, told Al Jazeera that “this declaration is the first step: telling the truth about the climate emergency”.

“From the coastal cities inundated by flooding, to the fires in the west, to the plains getting swamped with never-before-seen flooding, the emergency is clear,” she said, adding that the purpose was to do “what is necessary in time to save our country and human civilisation”.

“We are raising the bar for ‘realistic’ climate policy – no more half measures, incremental ‘first steps’ and mischaracterised ‘bold’ programs that are deeply insufficient,” Salamon said.

Ocasio-Cortez cosponsored the federal Green New Deal resolution with Senator Ed Markey earlier this year, proposing to make the US economy greener, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and create jobs to revamp American energy infrastructure. Sanders and several other Democratic 2020 presidential candidates have also announced their support.

“The Green New Deal is a powerful economic engine component of what an emergency climate mobilisation effort could look like,” said Salamon. “There are other plans – such as the Evergreen Economy Plan put forward by Washington [state] Governor Jay Inslee – that also rise to the level of major components of a national ‘mobilisation’.”

“These plans must be considered and debated in Congress and in our communities, in the context of the climate emergency and the unprecedented mobilization required to save civilisation,” she added.

The Climate Mobilization has said that later this month, it will release a scorecard evaluating the climate plans of all the Democratic 2020 contenders.

‘American leadership’

Representative Blumenauer said during the call on Wednesday that the inspiration for a Congressional resolution was US President Donald Trump‘s “unjustifiable moves” earlier this year to declare a national emergency over the migration crisis at the US’s southern border with Mexico.

“It’s time for Congress to take a stand,” said the Oregon representative. “We are already seeing disastrous impacts.”

Senator Bernie Sanders said that there are “many, many challenges facing this country, but at the top of the list must be the existential threat to our planet in terms of the damage that climate change is doing”.

“The scientific community is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that we have fewer than 12 years to transition,” said the Vermont senator, “if we are going to leave this planet in any way that is healthy and habitable”.

“Obviously it’s not just an American issue, but a global issue,” Sanders said, describing the need for “American leadership” on climate change.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez called for a “global solution to draw down carbon that will preserve our way of life”.

“We have to acknowledge the scale of the problem,” said the New York representative, referring to the largely symbolic resolution that has a chance of passing in Congress’s Democratic-controlled House but little likelihood of winning the endorsement of its Republican-controlled Senate.

Source: Al Jazeera