El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar joined a congressional delegation this week at the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP26).
Speaking at a press conference with other congressional colleagues who were elected in 2018, Escobar talked about her immigrant advocacy work and her home of El Paso, “our nation’s front door,” which she said had seen a record number of migrants fleeing their homeland because of climate change.
“More and more migrants are talking about the fact they can’t grow their food anymore on land that has been in their family’s hands for generations,” Escobar said. “They are fleeing hurricanes, droughts.”
Esboar said if anyone thought the migrant situation and humanitarian crisis being seen today was bad, it would only grow exponentially worse over the next several years.
According to the United Nations, more than 20 million people a year are being forced to leave their homes due to rising sea levels and extreme weather events supercharged by climate change, like prolonged droughts and abnormally heavy rainfall. The World Bank estimates those numbers will grow, with more than 200 million people leaving their homes by 2050.
“Inaction over the last few decades has fueled much of what we’re seeing today and so we can no longer sit in our hands as global leaders,” Escobar said, praising the work done in Congress to pass Biden’s infrastructure plan and the Build it Back Better Act, two major spending bills Escobar said would bring $1 trillion to the table for addressing the climate catastrophe.
“It’s not enough, even a sum that significant, the action as urgent as we are taking this year is still not enough,” Escobar said. “There’s much we have to do to prepare for what is ahead as a result of those decades of inaction.”
Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado said House members elected in 2018 won on a platform for protecting the planet and fighting climate change. “We’re here to send a message that America is all in,” Neguse said.
Stumping for the Green New Deal, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said market-based solutions like cap and trade and carbon taxes were the height of America’s climate action ambitions in the past decade.
“We can’t actually just pursue decarbonization, it has to center a benefit for the working class, for the vulnerable, for front line communities, people of color, women, underserved communities,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“It has to have a justice and jobs focus in order for us to meet our emission goals; that’s what’s going to make it politically popular and that’s how we’re going to mobilize our economy to meet these aggressive [emission] targets,” she said.
The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in August warned that rising sea levels and temperatures were already causing “irreversible” changes to Earth’s climate system.
Unless net zero CO2 emissions are reached, the report estimates that over the next two decades — maybe even within the next few years — global temperatures are expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of heating, at which point more severe and permanent changes will occur, such as 70 to 90% of Earth’s coral reefs dying off.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com