Democratic party members of the U.S. Congress who attended the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, led by Nancy Pelosi, sought to inject a positive tone into talks still hampered by a lack of U.S. political capital.
Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday insisted that Washington was “ready” to “adopt the most ambitious and consistent legislation on climate and clean energy of all time.”
The failure to accept President Joe Biden’s $ 1.75tn “Build Back Better” bill, which includes about $ 550bn in environmental terms, before the end of the COP26 summit cast a shadow over US participation.
But Pelosi told a news conference in Glasgow that her plan was to get legislation passed in the week of November 15. Kathy Castor, Democratic chair of the House Climate Crisis Select Committee, said the legislation shows the U.S. is ready to lead international efforts to keep global warming below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels as set out in the Paris Agreement.
“Once we pass this historic package, it will finally help the world keep 1.5 alive,” Castor said.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – who voted in the House against Biden’s separate infrastructure package, along with five other progressive Democrats – told a press briefing at COP26 that the Build Back Better Bill would involve large expenditures, not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to frontline communities and vulnerable groups.
Promoting “justice and jobs” should be central to efforts to achieve emissions targets, Ocasio-Cortez said.
“This is what will make it politically popular and this is what will mobilize our economy,” she said, adding that the current US administration is taking a new approach to climate policy.
“We are not just back, we are different and we are fairer, and we are more open, I think, to questioning previous assumptions about what is politically possible,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Alok Sharma, COP26 president, said on Tuesday, outlining the difficulties in reaching national agreements at the summit, that the time had come to find political consensus on remaining differences, and new texts had been drafted on such disputed areas as time frames. for reducing emissions, greater transparency about national progress and financial support for poorer nations.
“We are making progress at COP26, but we still have a mountain to climb over the next few days,” he said. “What is collectively committed to goes one way or another, but certainly not completely, to keeping 1.5C within reach.”
Sharma said at a press briefing that he was standing by a Friday 6pm deadline for an end to negotiations. “The negotiators literally worked on this day and night. “There is a sense of urgency and yes, I would very much like us to finish by the time set out,” he said.
He declined to comment on complaints from climate activists that Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Australia had blocked mentioning the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels in any transaction or action to close loopholes in the carbon market.
“These are very sensitive negotiations and what we are trying to do here is to build consensus,” he said, adding that there has been a “constructive spirit among negotiators” over the past week.
Climate change host Boris Johnson will return to Glasgow on Wednesday to try to inject political adrenaline into the negotiations. The prime minister, who returned from Glasgow by private jet last Tuesday, is expected to return by train.
He will meet negotiators to “get an update on the progress of the talks to encourage ambitious action in the last days”, according to a Downing Street spokesman.
Additional reporting by Jim Pickard
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