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Ocasio-Cortez joins protesters in Pelosi’s office pushing for bold climate action

Protesters call for a “Green New Deal.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a congressmember-elect from New York City, joins protesters in the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on November 13, 2018. CREDIT: Sunrise Movement
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a congressmember-elect from New York City, joins protesters in the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on November 13, 2018. CREDIT: Sunrise Movement

Climate activists converged on the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Tuesday morning to urge the House Democratic leader to advocate for aggressive climate legislation that would create jobs and address the climate crisis.

The environmental activists are calling for a “Green New Deal,” a government program that would put millions of people to work, transform the economy, and help to stop climate change.

Tuesday’s protest was organized by the Sunrise Movement, a campaign of young people formed in 2017 to make climate change an urgent policy priority for politicians and other policymakers. About 50 protesters were arrested at the sit-in in Pelosi’s office for “unlawfully demonstrating” in the House Cannon Office Building, according to the Capitol Police.

The protesters, including Congressmember-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), also called on Pelosi to create a Select Committee for a Green New Deal that would be similar to a climate panel that Pelosi established when she previously served as House speaker.

The activists fear Democratic leaders could use the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Senate — both of which could stand in the way of enacting bold climate policy — as excuses for refusing to pursue an aggressive climate bill.

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So far, though, Pelosi has only said she plans to ask House Democrats to reconstitute the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which operated from 2007 up until 2011.

“Pelosi’s ‘plan’ on climate change is the equivalent of bringing a squirt gun to a raging drought-induced wildfire killing Americans right now,” Varshini Prakash, founder of the Sunrise Movement, said Tuesday in a statement.

In response to the climate activists occupying her House office on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said in a statement issued Tuesday that she is “inspired by the energy and activism of the many young activists and advocates leading the way on the climate crisis, which threatens the health, economic security and futures of all our communities.”

The protest came on the heels of a groundbreaking United Nations report that concluded the world has 12 years to rapidly transform its social and economic policies to prevent a rise in temperatures that will lead to catastrophic climate change.

The activists want the new Democratic majority in the House to focus on crafting and passing bills that will have an impact on climate change and not worry about whether the Senate will pass a companion bill.

As part of a Green New Deal — an idea first raised by Ocasio-Cortez and other candidates ahead of the elections — lawmakers would create a Green Jobs for All Program that would put millions of people to work, transform the economy, and help to stop climate change and transforming the economy, according to the Sunrise Movement.

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“We need a Green New Deal and we need to get to 100 percent renewables because our lives depend on it,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. “The IPCC themselves, they say we have 10 years left and I — not just as an elected member, but as a 29-year-old woman — am thinking not just about what we are going to accomplish in the next two years but the America that we’re going to live in in the next 30 years.”

The protesters expressed concern that Pelosi, after the midterm elections, showed no intention of putting forward a climate plan in the new Congress that is in line with what science and justice demand.

“If Pelosi really cared about the people devastated in the forest fires in her home state of California, she would put forth bold solutions to this crisis, like a Green Jobs for All Program that would put millions of people to work stopping climate change and transforming our economy,” Prakash said.