Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi hosted the Group of Seven annual meeting of Speakers and Heads of Parliament, focusing on the need for strong international action to combat the disparities in health and financial security that have been highlighted by the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are the Speaker’s opening remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. As Speaker of the United States Congress, it is my honor to welcome this distinguished group of Parliamentary Leaders to the 19th annual G7 Speakers’ Meeting on ‘Addressing the Climate Crisis with Economic and Environmental Justice for All.’ We are pleased to be joined by Ambassadors of the G7 nations.
It is a privilege to convene once again to confront the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis, as we have over the years, significantly, one year ago, in Brest, for the G7 Speakers’ Meeting on Parliaments Committed for the Oceans. Thank you, President Richard Ferrand. Paul and I send our regards to you and Sandrine.
Thank you all for your critical participation in today’s meeting, which is enhanced by the participation of leaders from diverse communities, including from both the faith and scientific communities.
We are blessed to be joined by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Just over thirty years ago, His Holiness became the first Nobel Laureate on the basis of his environmental advocacy.
In his acceptance speech, he said, ‘With the ever-growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play by reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. This understanding is crucial if we are to take positive and decisive action on the pressing global concern with the environment.”
Today, the words of His Holiness resonate with great urgency, for the verdict of science is clear: the climate crisis is real, and its consequences are undeniable. Rising sea levels, horrific wildfires, savage droughts, deadly famines, devastating floods and life-threatening air pollution will impact every nation on every continent.
And every year, the crisis accelerates.
There is no time to deny the reality of this crisis, which jeopardizes the public health of our communities, threatening clean air and clean water; jeopardizes the economic security of our families: if temperatures rise to 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, global economic losses could exceed $20 trillion per year.
And this week, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report warning of financial havoc from the climate crisis, concluding ‘a world wracked by frequent and devasting shocks from climate change cannot sustain the fundamental conditions supporting the financial system.’
The climate crisis jeopardizes the national security of our countries. Security and military leaders warn that rising sea levels, melting polar caps, drying rivers, the encroachment of deserts and reduction of farmland will cause competition for habitat and resources, with millions displaced.
And the crisis undermines the moral obligation we have to pass the planet on to future generations in a responsible way.
The climate crisis also presents serious challenges to securing justice in our communities. The climate crisis touches every community, but it does not do so equally. If we do not act, the most vulnerable among us, indigenous people, developing nations, communities of color, will be hit first and hardest, and will be even further economically disadvantaged.
That is why, last year, after our conversations at the G7 Speakers’ Meeting, I announced that this year’s theme would be Addressing the Climate Crisis with Economic and Environmental Justice for All.
One year later, the threats to justice loom even greater, particularly as the coronavirus crisis shines a light on the stark disparities in health and economic security in our communities.
It is a sad and shocking truth that communities of color and low-income communities are particularly vulnerable, in terms of both health and economic security, to the virus’s impacts – just as they are unfairly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis.
The facts are these. Developing nations contribute the least to the climate crisis, yet face a disproportionately high impact.
Families living in poverty disproportionately live in areas vulnerable to climate hazards.
And those families living in poverty also have fewer resources to prepare for, avoid and recover from extreme weather and climate events.
Those without access to quality health care are more vulnerable to both the climate crisis and the coronavirus.
Yet, if we act urgently and boldly, we have the opportunity to advance justice: in health care, in jobs and in security. By taking bold action against the coronavirus crisis and the climate crisis, we can save both lives and livelihoods.
A smart, strategic approach to these challenges provides the opportunity to get people back to work and school safely, and boost the economy, not only helping recover from today’s economic crisis, but also laying a future foundation for a resilient, equitable economy that lifts up all communities.
This is not the work of a single year or a single nation, but instead, requires our collective, long-term commitment to ensure the benefits of climate action are shared by all. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, we can only solve the challenges facing our global community with a coordinated international response.
Until the virus and the climate crisis are addressed everywhere, they are not solved anywhere.
And we are running out of time to act. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation last week projected an additional 1.9 million deaths by the end of January 2021 from COVID-19, bringing the total number of COVID-related deaths worldwide to 2.8 million people.
Our hopes and prayers are for science to produce a vaccine that is safe and effective, urgently. As soon as that safety and efficacy are achieved, we must have an ethical and equitable distribution of the vaccine around the world. Until then, we must follow social distancing guidelines for testing, tracing, treatment, social distancing, sanitation and mask wearing.
In our mission to build a just, equitable and green future, the G7 nations have a partner in the American people, particularly our young people who are demanding Climate Action Now.
The climate crisis and energy security were my flagship issues when I was first House Speaker. We achieved landmark progress that was bipartisan, and we are doing so again, led by the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and Chair Kathy Castor, who will report on House action and plans for the future in this meeting.
I opened my remarks by referencing His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his beautiful message about the connection between faith and science in protecting the environment.
I want to close by quoting His Holiness Pope Francis when he addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress, here in the Capitol, five years ago this month.
In his remarks, the Pope referenced his encyclical Laudato Si’, in which he wrote, ‘The Climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.’ To protect that ‘common good,’ the Pope said in his speech, ‘We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.’
That is what brings us together today. This is our charge: harnessing our collective resources, willpower and determination to advance a better, more just future for all members of our collective global family.
Now, I invite the Speakers to begin their opening remarks, beginning with Speaker Oshima of Japan.
In his more than 45 years of public service, Speaker Oshima’s leadership has been critical to addressing environmental and climate challenges, whether as Director-General of the Environmental Agency, Director-General of the Science and Technology Agency, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries or now, as Speaker of the Diet.
Speaker Oshima, I now yield to you.
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