The State University of New York
Buffalo, New York
1:43 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon! Good afternoon. Please, have a seat. (Applause.) Good afternoon, everyone.
Srikrithi, you did such an excellent job. You inspire me. You inspire me, as do all of the students that I met this afternoon and, of course, the faculty and the administration for the work you are doing here.
Mayor, it is good to see you again as well.
And it is good to be back in Buffalo. And on the subject that is the reason for our convening this afternoon, I will tell you that the work that is happening here is very exciting and, really, a model for our country, when we choose to invest in the natural talent and invest in our future, and, through young leaders, what we will be able to accomplish in terms of getting in front of the challenges we face but also leading as a nation.
So I want to thank everyone for welcoming us. President Tripathi, I want to thank you for welcoming us to the campus. To Congressman Brian Higgins, thank you for welcoming me back to your district. And it is good to be here with so many young leaders, as I said.
So when we think about where we are, I’ll tell you, when President Joe Biden and I ran in 2020, I had the privilege to meet and speak with leaders from across our nation. I met with college students in Georgia and high school students in Denver. I met with young veterans in New Hampshire and educators in Iowa.
And as you can expect, the issues that were raised in those conversations were wide-ranging. Some folks wanted to talk about voting rights or mental health, and others of our young leaders wanted to talk, rightly, about gun violence and criminal justice and healthcare.
And in these conversations, there was always one other issue — a single issue that came up every time, more than any other: the climate crisis.
Meeting with the young leaders of our nation, it is front and center on their minds for good reason. To the young leaders, I say: In your lifetime, your generation has experienced one of the 10 — or “every one” — excuse me — your generation has experienced every one of the 10 hottest summers on record.
You have seen your communities decimated by wildfires, flooded by hurricanes, and choked by drought. Here in Buffalo, you have watched as toxic algae has spread through Lake Erie.
Your generation knows the threat of the climate crisis because you have lived it. And for your entire lives thus far, you have seen our nation fail to act with the urgency this crisis demands.
And one asks then, “Why?” Well, I’ll tell you. It is not because the science is unclear. Scientists have been warning about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions for decades. It is not because we lack solutions. We know how to reduce our emissions and protect our communities. No. It is because too many so-called leaders have lacked the political will and courage to act. (Applause.)
But in 2020, young voters turned out in record numbers. You put President Biden and me in the White House. And you told us to take on the climate crisis like the crisis it is. And we heard you. So that is what we have done.
Today, more than 60 percent of all electricity generated in our nation comes from fossil fuels, for example. Coal, petroleum, natural gas. We know that is not sustainable.
And so, our administration has invested billions of dollars to boost clean energy production. That means building thousands of new wind turbines and massive solar farms, like the one I’ve seen on this campus; solar farms and wind turbines that are capable of powering an entire city. And it also means giving families money to install solar panels on their homes so that all families can take advantage of solar power, including working families.
And all of this — the benefit — all of this will lower electricity costs and reduce emissions. It will also create millions of good-paying jobs — jobs for STEM students like those I met with today who will design the next generation of clean energy technology, and jobs for all the people who will build and install and repair our clean energy infrastructure.
And to take advantage of this surge in clean energy production, our administration is giving families thousands of dollars to weatherize their homes, which includes up to $8,000 to upgrade their HVAC system from gas to an electric heat pump.
Again, that means cleaner air and cheaper energy bills. And it lowers emissions for our nation.
And we are not stopping there. As many of you know, the transportation sector is our nation’s single-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Every year, gas-powered cars and trucks and buses contribute millions of tons of carbon dioxide and toxic air pollution.
But there is a solution to this problem: electric vehicles. Electric cars and trucks and buses, which produce no tailpipe emissions. And they are cheaper to own and safer for our communities since they do not produce toxic fumes that increase the risk of respiratory illness.
That is why our administration has invested billions of dollars to help our nation go electric. That means electrifying public transit vehicles and school buses. That means reducing the price of new and used electric cars and trucks by thousands of dollars so that more working families can afford to make the switch.
And that means building a national network of electric vehicle chargers. Half a million in total. And this too will create jobs. In fact, General Motors recently announced they will be upgrading their factory in Lockport, just up the road, to manufacture parts for electric cars.
And, UB, the challenge that we face also requires us then to address another truth. While the climate crisis touches all communities, it does not do so equally. (Applause.) For generations, poor communities and communities of color have borne the brunt of toxic air and water pollution. As the former District Attorney of San Francisco, I created that city’s first environmental justice unit. And I continued to fight as Attorney General and as United States Senator, and now as Vice President, knowing we must address the issue of equity.
President Biden and I are clear: All our work to address the climate crisis must be grounded in environmental justice and in equity. And that means funding community-led projects to address the harms of pollution in Black, brown, and low-income communities. And it means — (applause) — and it means holding polluters accountable when they poison our air, our water, and our soil. (Applause.) It means connecting families in rural communities and Indian Country with affordable, reliable clean electricity. And it means making sure these investments create jobs and grow economic opportunity in communities that have long been left out and left behind — frankly, for far too long.
So, last year, our President set an ambitious goal: Our nation will cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half by no later than 2030. And by no later than 2050, we will reach net-zero emissions. (Applause.)
Today, I am proud to report that because of the work that we have all done together, and because of the victories we have thus far won, our nation is on track to meet those goals.
But let us be clear: We still have more work to do — to cut emissions, to advance environmental justice, and to protect our planet for generations to come.
So this, students, is where you come in. In your classrooms, in our communities, you are leading us forward as a nation and as a world. And we are counting on you.
You are chemical engineers working to make our solar panels more efficient. You are architects designing sustainable homes and communities. You are climate scientists modeling the impact of rising seas and warming temperatures. And you are public health experts providing hope and healing to so many.
And together, all of you are fighting to make sure that our nation does not repeat the mistakes of the past. You are reminding us not only of our past but, in such an important way, you are reminding us of the potential of our future. And in that way, you are inspiring us.
So the next time you’re up late studying in Capen Library — (laughs) — and President Biden and I tell you, as we will in many ways, that we’re counting on you, know that we stand with you, and we are so proud of you and so proud of what you are doing now and what you will continue to do.
So, with that, know we stand with you. And with all of you, we thank you for the work that you are doing here.
May God bless you, and may God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:56 P.M. EDT