Young climate activists seize the opportunity of Democratic House control


Young climate activists pressure the expected new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi to sign up to an ambitious climate plan. Photo credit: Nelson Klein / Sunrise Movement.

By Anders Lorenzen

The movement against Donald Trump‘s regressive agenda on the environment and climate change was given the necessary push it needed in the US midterm elections. As expected, Democrats seized control of the lower chamber of the US Congress, the House (though the Republicans increased their majority in the Senate gaining two seats to an overall majority of five seats). With four House races still to be counted because recounts, and the margin being so close, the Democrats have a majority of 33 seats. Even if the Republicans win the remaining seats, Democrats will still have a 29 seat majority.

Climate activists who are desperate for climate action in the wake of Donald Trump efforts to roll back the progress of climate change action did not waste any time in beginning to lobby the House, which will be in Democratic control from January. And what better way to begin than to organising a sit-in at the office of Nancy Pelosi, the woman who is expected to become the House speaker? It was organised the Sunrise Movement, set up a year and a half ago. They say they’re a building an army of young people passionate about fighting climate change. The protest was joined by the hottest thing in Democratic politics right now, the newly elected Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. She had made headline news prior to her election by beating an established Democrat in his candidacy, and by being the youngest woman in the House.

Ocasio-Cortez is part of a movement called Justice Democrats, who stand for progressive socialist politics and who want to move the Democrats further leftwards. Part of her campaign promised a Green ‘New Deal’, setting out to achieve 100% renewable energy as soon as possible. She has also called for politics to be scrubbed clean of fossil fuel money.

The presence of Ocasio-Cortez clearly had an impact.

In her response, Pelosi chose to act positively and embrace the protests. On Twitter, she said she welcomed the presence of the activists and urged the police to allow them to take part in peaceful protests. On climate change, she acted quickly and released a statement saying that House Democrats are committed to tackling the climate crisis.

The statement further read: “I have recommended to my House Democratic colleagues that we reinstate the select committee to address the climate crisis. House Democrats ran on and won on our bold campaign for a $1 trillion investment in our infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient to the climate crisis while creating 16 million new good-paying jobs across the country”. The committee was abolished in 2011 when Republicans won control of the House.

That statement was positively received by Ocasio-Cortez who tweeted out that she welcomed the re-establishment of the committee, hoping that it would embrace 100% renewable energy and that no members take money from the fossil fuel industry.

Ocasio-Cortez was just one of several new progressive elected Democrats to the House who see climate change amongst the most pressing issues to be addressed. It is likely that the lobbying will take a more proactive approach to climate change, as well as fighting Trump when he seeks to undo legislation which has only just started.

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