July 17, 2019

VIDEO: Udall Speaks on Senate Floor Calling for Immediate Action on Climate Crisis

As Republican leadership turns Senate into legislative graveyard, the climate crisis threatens New Mexico and Native communities

VIDEO: https://www.facebook.com/senatortomudall/videos/2432424033653365/

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall spoke on the Senate floor calling for immediate action to combat the climate crisis and highlight how climate change is hurting New Mexico, Native communities, the United States as a whole and the world. In his remarks, Udall called out Republican leadership for burying House-passed bills in the Senate’s legislative graveyard, such as H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, which would keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement to confront the climate crisis. Udall urged his colleagues to reach bipartisan solutions to tackle the existential threat of climate change.

“[T]his administration has slashed and burned every protection, program, and agreement aimed at combatting climate change that it can find… And I can tell you who in this Congress is the administration’s number one accomplice: the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate,” Udall said. “The Leader’s ‘legislative graveyard’ is littered with legislation the American people want and deserve – from improving health care, to reforming our democracy, to common sense measures to prevent gun violence. But climate change threatens the land, lives, and livelihoods of homeowners, small businesses, farmers, ranchers, fishers, and so many others all across the nation. And the Majority Leader’s refusal to take up climate action is about as bad as Congressional malfeasance gets.”

Udall also noted that the climate crisis disproportionately impacts Native communities, and threatens to upend traditional ways of life. “The fact is that no American is immune from the threats of climate change. And many of our most underrepresented and vulnerable communities are at the greatest risk… Many Native people’s way of life is intimately tied to the land and water. These natural resources -- that they have depended on for hundreds or even thousands of years -- are being disrupted in ways that upend their communities. Their subsistence, their cultural practices, their sacred sites are all threatened,” Udall continued.

Finally, Udall called on the Senate to engage in “a real climate debate, and pass some real bipartisan solutions” to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis. “We all came to the United States Senate to solve problems – problems like climate change. We didn’t come here to spend time in a legislative graveyard,” Udall concluded.

The full text of Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery is below.

Climate disruption is an existential threat to our planet. Existential. Scientists recognize this. So do the American people. And so does the international community. 194 countries and the European Union have signed the Paris Agreement. And so did the United States.

Quite frankly, we shouldn’t even have to argue this anymore. But for those who still don’t see the evidence of climate change – it’s all around us: A warming climate. Record breaking hurricanes off the Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean. Unprecedented flooding in the Midwest.

Native villages in Alaska are actually falling into the sea. Drought and the most severe wildfires in the West we’ve seen.

This is from a 2003 fire near Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. We in New Mexico are on pins and needles now every fire season. We don’t know what disaster will hit us.

We know this climate catastrophe is caused by human activity.

Report after report tells us that we don’t have any time to waste. That we need to act – now.

Even this administration’s most recent climate analysis finds that global warming: “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The report concludes we must act now to “avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

And that’s coming from the administration of a climate change-denying president.

Yet this administration has slashed and burned every protection, program, and agreement aimed at combatting climate change that it can find.

From the Clean Power Plan, to methane control regulations, to the Paris Agreement.

And I can tell you who in this Congress is the administration’s number one accomplice: the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.

The Leader’s “legislative graveyard” is littered with legislation the American people want and deserve – from improving health care, to reforming our democracy, to common sense measures to prevent gun violence.

But climate change threatens the land, lives, and livelihoods of homeowners, small businesses, farmers, ranchers, fishers, and so many others all across the nation. And the Majority Leader’s refusal to take up climate action is about as bad as Congressional malfeasance gets.

In May, the House of Representatives passed the first major climate legislation in nearly a decade – the Climate Action Now Act. H.R. 9 aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by about one-quarter by 2025. The bill ensures the U.S. stays in the Paris Agreement.

This bill is not extreme. But it does respond to the dire situation we face. The Senate should debate this bill and pass it.

But we won’t. We all know that the Majority Leader will continue to stand in its way.

Well, due to this negligence and inaction, states are filling the void and taking it upon themselves to act. My home state of New Mexico passed legislation this year aimed at transitioning to 100 percent carbon-free electricity.

It’s an approach that is consistent with the Renewable Electricity Standard bill that I introduced last month. That legislation is designed to achieve at least 50 percent renewable electricity nationwide in 15 years – putting the U.S. on a trajectory for a zero carbon power sector by 2050.

The fact is that no American is immune from the threats of climate change. And many of our most underrepresented and vulnerable communities are at the greatest risk.

For example, the most recent National Climate Assessment finds that tribes and indigenous peoples are impacted disproportionately -- and uniquely.

Many Native people’s way of life is intimately tied to the land and water. These natural resources -- that they have depended on for hundreds or even thousands of years -- are being disrupted in ways that upend their communities. Their subsistence, their cultural practices, their sacred sites are all threatened.

Look at the proximity of this fire to Taos Pueblo. It’s not only sacred to the Taos people, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Last week – Senator Schatz and I wrote to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian leaders seeking their input on how climate change is affecting their communities.

We want to foster a dialogue -- about what actions Congress and federal agencies should take to mitigate the impacts.

I am the vice chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. Senator Schatz is the chair of the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. And we were joined by all Democratic Senators on the Indian Affairs Committee.

This effort should have been bipartisan. Climate change is blind to political party. But it wasn’t. Because too many Republican members just follow President Trump and the Majority Leader – killing anything aimed at progress.

The Majority Leader jokes that he is the “grim reaper” -- sounding the death knell on legislation.

But climate change is no laughing matter. Neither is access to health care for millions of Americans. Or our broken campaign finance system. Or the safety of American school children.

The Senate must do its duty to the American people. And tackle these most pressing problems. This does not mean rubber stamping legislation sent to us by the House. The Senate has a storied tradition of debate and compromise. Let’s return to that tradition — have a real climate debate, and pass some real bipartisan solutions.

We all came to the United States Senate to solve problems – problems like climate change. We didn’t come here to spend time in a legislative graveyard. We don’t want to be a place where good ideas come to die.

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