REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS ON BUILD BACK BETTER AND CLIMATE INITIATIVES AFTER A TOUR OF JOHN F. KENNEDY AIRPORT
John F. Kennedy Airport
New York, New York
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, everyone. It’s good to be back in New York. Hello, everyone. Hello. Hello. (Applause.) Please have a seat. Please have a seat. It’s good to see you all. It’s good to see you all.
Secretary Jennifer Granholm, thank you for your years of leadership. You are a devout public servant, and you have always been one of those leaders who speaks truth.
And today, it is about the crisis and the crises that we face, but also — and you always do it a with sense of optimism — about the opportunities we must seize. So, thank you for everything you do.
It is great to be back in New York, and it is great to be here with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Where is she? She’s here. I know she’s here.
Chairman Gregory Meeks, Queens — (applause) — yes — who I was just speaking with about some upcoming international travel. I always check in with Chairman Meeks before I have the many meetings that I’ve been having over the course of this year.
Queens Borough President, Donovan Richards, thank you. (Applause.) There you are.
And the Port Authority leaders who are here; the climate and environmental leaders who are here; the labor leaders who are here — it is good to be in the house of labor; and, in particular, the build- — the leaders of the building trades who are here: Thank you all for your work. (Applause.)
So, as you all know, today, President Joe Biden is in Glasgow, Scotland. He is at the COP26 Summit to demonstrate American leadership on a global crisis: the crisis of climate change.
This morning, the President announced the release of our nation’s long-term strategy to meet our commitment of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
He also announced several important initiatives to partner with other nations to tackle this crisis.
As the President said in Glasgow, “[Our] administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not [just] words.”
And to be clear, to meet our climate commitment, we must –we must, I say to my fellow Americans, put in the work here at home.
Right here in New York, we have seen climate change become a climate crisis just in the last several months. Air pollution is causing health problems, like asthma; rising sea levels are flooding streets; and storms are growing more frequent and more dangerous.
Hurricane Sandy was nine years ago, and Hurricane Ida was about nine weeks ago. People died in these storms. Homes were destroyed in those storms. Local economies were upended because of those storms. So, I’ll say it again: Climate change has become a climate crisis.
But, today, we know that this moment of crisis is also a moment of opportunity. It is an opportunity to create good union jobs. (Applause.) It is an opportunity to build healthier communities and stronger local economies. It is an opportunity to build a better nation.
Last week, our administration announced our Build Back Better framework. This framework, together with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, represents the largest effort to combat climate change in our nation’s history.
We will reduce emissions by investing in electric vehicles, clean energy, and clean manufacturing.
We will invest in the communities that have been hit the hardest by the impact of climate change. And at the same time, we will create millions of good union jobs.
Once these bills are passed, autoworkers will manufacture electric cars and electric school buses.
Once these bills are passed, plumbers will fill the jobs we need to replace all of those lead pipes. Young people will join our new Civilian Climate Corps. These are the opportunities we have within our grasp right now.
And so, our administration has been working hard and focusing on every detail, because details matter. And the President and I are confident that we have a framework that will pass.
Climate change — well, it’s not slowing down and neither can we. We must deliver for the American people.
So that’s why our administration will continue to take every possible action to meet our nation’s climate commitment. It has long been the role and the responsibility of our government to mitigate, to reduce, to try and eliminate any harm to public health.
And as you may know, last week, the United States Supreme Court decided to hear a case on whether to limit the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Well, you all know I used to be an attorney general. And I want to make something clear: Our administration believes that the Supreme Court should reaffirm what it has said before, that the EPA has the authority to keep our families and our communities safe from pollution. (Applause.)
And today, as Secretary Granholm mentioned, we have announced two new initiatives led by the Secretary and our Department of Energy.
First, a new partnership between our government and private companies to drive innovation in electric heat pumps. This will not only cut down on emissions, it will help families save on their monthly energy bills. It creates an opportunity to create jobs in the community and to grow the skills of the young people in our communities — to participate in doing this work.
Second, we are putting $127 million to speed up the development of large electric trucks, like the kind you see around me. This will protect our communities. It will protect the health of our communities and the wellbeing of our communities and the opportunities of our communities and the economic vitality of our communities.
And I know this to be true. You see, when I was California’s attorney general, I met — and I’ll never forget this time — I met with a group of community leaders, of residents of a town called Mira Loma, which is predominately a Latino and a low-income community of families, multiple generations of families.
And they had been calling out for years, “Somebody needs to come see what’s going on here and address this and address our concerns.” They had been calling out, knowing the impact that this was all having on the lives of their community and their children.
So, I decided one day to go and visit with the folks of that community. And I met with a group of leaders who were mostly the grandmothers and the grandfathers of the community. And they had been calling for action to address the high volume of semi-truck traffic in their community.
You see, over 15,000 trucks and the pollution that came with those trucks drove through this town of Mira Loma every day — so much pollution, in fact, that a study found that the babies from Mira Loma had one of the lowest rates of lung development in the region.
So, here’s the thing: We should be able to move our goods, to move commerce without harming the children of our communities.
And that is why an investment in large electric trucks is an investment in environmental justice. Because the story of Mira Loma is the story of many communities in our nation. And by doing this work, it is not only an investment in innovation, it is an investment in our people.
So, my final point is this: The world is looking at us and they are looking to us.
Over the past 10 months, I have had direct talks with countless world leaders on this very subject.
I talked to Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados, whose nation, like many small island nations, is experiencing the impact of rising sea levels.
I talked with King Abdullah of Jordan, whose nation is facing drought and water shortages.
I talked with Prime Minister Johnson of the United Kingdom, who, right now, is hosting COP26.
I talked with the Prime Minister of Singapore when I visited Singapore to meet with him in August. And there, during that time, we announced a new partnership between our nations to address the climate crisis.
And next week, when I visit France, President Macron and I will discuss how our nations will build on our existing partnership.
Here is the bottom line: To demonstrate that the United States is leading by example, we must continue to put in the work here at home.
So, let’s build on the incredible work being done in places like New York. Let us pass Build Back Better framework. Let us pill [sic] — pass the bill which is Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. And let us show the world how America intends to lead.
I thank you all. May God bless you. And may God bless America. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.