Remarks by Vice President Harris During Meeting on Climate Change

The White House

Secretary of War Suite

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

2:46 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hi, everyone. Good to see all the friends. I’m glad you’re here.

Well, I wanted to stop by. I knew the extraordinary national and international leaders were here visiting today. Emmy told me — Brian and Gina — we’ve been talking a lot about what we collectively must do, what we want to do, building on the great work that has already happened by the leaders at this table. And there’s a lot more to get done. But I wanted to come by just, first of all, to just say thank you.

Many of us have known each other for many, many years. You all have been in this fight for a long time. I think, as I’m looking around at you, the generations of progress in this movement that have been made within our lifetimes, in large part due to the work of each of you.

I think of you in the context of the most recent — now, I guess, it’s been a couple of months — report from the United Nations about the significance of this very moment. As you did, I read that, and I — one of the things that really was very obvious about how they articulated the issue and the seriousness of it — the imminence of it and the danger of it — was that they were unambiguous.

This was, I think, the first time I’ve seen a U.N. report where it wasn’t, “Oh,we kind of think…there’s some general consensus…” No, I mean, they spoke with exclamation points, with numbers, with dates — 2030.

So, this is a moment of crisis and — as I think we all think of crises — also a moment of opportunity. And we cannot afford — at least in our fight, we cannot afford to be incremental. We cannot afford to be patient.

Nonetheless, we also have a system where there must be consensus when we’re talking about the Build Back Better Agenda. And we will work together to accomplish what we all know we must do as the individuals and as the people in this room and in this town and in our country who are — right now have been — who’ve been charged with carrying the baton at this very moment and knowing that the way that we carry the baton at this moment will have a profound impact on the people we hand the baton to.

So, I wanted to come by to thank you. I want you to know that, of course, our Build Back Better Agenda, the way I think of it — people say, “What exactly does it mean?” Well, I’ll tell you what it means for the President, for me, for all of us. It really is about four main parts, one of which is climate, the other which is jobs.

As you know, the President, whenever he talks about or thinks about climate, he will say he thinks about jobs — again, the opportunity and the moment — on behalf of the American people and their economic condition and their livelihoods.

And then it’s about family. And it’s about health. And interestingly enough, all of those issues relate to what we do on the issue of our climate — jobs, help families.

So that’s our agenda. And we are determined to meet our goal of a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. We are absolutely determined to meet that goal. Again, we know that it is not something that is just a goal, it is an imperative.

The priorities that we have on climate are three pronged, at least. There is the point that is about resilience, and that includes addressing issues like Western water and, of course, wildfires — as you all know, I’m from California; I feel strongly about that for many reasons — and flood mitigation.

In fact, last week, I was at Lake Mead, in Nevada. I’m sure all of you know it, but to see it — I stood there with the incredible folks who work in that area. And there’s a bathtub ring, which is so clearly marked. It’s not even gradual. It’s not like it has a slow fade. It’s so clearly marked — the distinction between where the water always was and where it is now.

And the significance of that, of the contrast, just in the colors, is how quickly this all changed so drastically. And they described that the length, that the height of the recession of water, it’s longer than the height of the Statue of Liberty. And this is just through the last 20 years — two thousand and — 2020.

We are focused on climate resilience. We are focused on reducing emissions. And as we know, this has to be through our focus on clean energy. It has to be through our focus on electric vehicles and transmission.

You know, electric vehicles — I was — it was one of my very — most enjoyable visits, as Vice President, to go to a manufacturing plant here in the United States that is manufacturing electric vehicles. I’m just obsessed with it, and particularly the school buses, because, of course, this relates not only to emissions, but to all that we care about in terms of environmental justice, all that we care about in terms of equity, and acknowledging and then addressing disparities based on race.

Twenty-five million children, at least before COVID, go to school on a daily basis on the current buses, which, of course, contribute to emissions and a threat to our climate, but also a threat to the health and safety of those children.

So, these are some of the issues. And then, of course, environmental justice.

You’ll remember — many of you know — back when I was District Attorney of San Francisco, I created one of the first-in-the-nation environmental justice units of any prosecutor’s office. It’s an issue I take very seriously.

It was actually a decade ago that, as Attorney General, I took a group of press, actually, to a place called Mira Loma, California, where the emissions were so intense that the children of that community had been noted by one of our major universities as having the lowest rate — or the slowest rate of lung development of children anywhere.

So, these are the issues that we are focused on. These are the issues that we are prioritizing. And the negotiations continue, as you all know.

But I wanted to come by to also tell you that we — the President and I and our administration — are unwavering in our commitment to these issues — absolutely unwavering.

But, you know, they — there’s an old saying: You don’t want to watch sausage be made, and you don’t want to watch a bill be made. (Laughter.)

Sometimes it’s not a pretty sight. But the end result of — you know, unless you’re a vegan, of course — (laughter) — the end result is usually — is usually pretty — pretty good.

But there’s work to be done.

But I’ll just close my comments by saying that we strongly believe, as I know you do, that this is a very specific moment in time. And we cannot squander, yes, the opportunities, but also the grave responsibility that we have to do something. And we are focused, as an administration, on doing something and getting things done.

And so, I know that you’ve been talking about it before I stopped in, but I want you to know, you know, I believe strongly, as a devout public servant, that a lot of the progress that we’ve ever made in government is due in large part to the efforts and the push that comes from outside to remind us of where we can go and what we need to get done. And you all have been doing that for so very long.

And it’s so good to see you all. And I want to thank you for traveling to be here for this meeting. Thank you. (Applause.)

2:55 P.M. EDT

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