Secretary of War Suite
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
2:46 p.m. EDT
THE VICE-PRESIDENT: Good morning, everyone. It’s good to see all the friends. I’m glad you’re here.
Well, I wanted to stop. I knew the extraordinary national and international leaders were here visiting today. Emmy told me – Brian and Gina – that we’ve talked a lot about what we need to do collectively, what we want to do, building on the great work that has already been done by the leaders at this table. And there is much more to do. But I just wanted to drop by, first of all, just to say thank you.
Many of us have known each other for many, many years. You have all been in this fight for a long time. I think, as I look around you, of the generations of progress in this movement that have been made in our lifetimes, in large part because of the work of each of you.
I think of you in the context of the most recent – now, I guess, it’s been a few months – United Nations report on the significance of this very moment. As you did, I read this, and I – one of the things that was really very obvious about how they articulated the problem and the seriousness of it – the imminence and the danger of this one – was that they were unambiguous.
It was, I think, the first time I saw a UN report where it didn’t say, “Oh, we kind of think… there’s some general consensus…” No, I mean , they spoke with exclamation marks, with numbers, with dates – 2030.
So this is a time of crisis and – as I think we all think of crises – also a time of opportunity. And we can’t afford – at least in our struggle, we can’t afford to be progressive. We cannot afford to be patient.
However, we also have a system where there has to be consensus when we talk about the Build Back Better program. And we’ll work together to accomplish what we all know we need to do as individuals and as people in this room and in this city and in our country that are – now have been – have been accused of carrying the baton at this very moment and knowing that the way we carry the baton right now will have a profound impact on who we pass the baton to.
So I wanted to come and thank you. I want you to know that, of course, our Build Back Better program, the way I think it is – people say, “What exactly does that mean? Well, I’ll tell you what that means for the President, for me, for all of us. There are really four main elements, one being the climate, the other employment.
As you know the President, whenever he speaks or thinks about the climate, he will say he is thinking about jobs – again, the opportunity and the time – on behalf of the American people, of their economic situation. and their livelihood.
And then it’s a family matter. And it is a matter of health. And oddly enough, all of these questions relate to what we do on the issue of our climate – jobs, helping families.
So that’s our agenda. And we are determined to meet our target of 50% emission reductions by 2030. We are absolutely committed to achieving that target. Again, we know it’s not something that’s just a goal, it’s an imperative.
Our climate priorities are at least on three fronts. There’s the point about resilience, and that includes addressing issues like western water and, of course, wildfires – as you all know I’m from California; I am very attached to this for many reasons – and flood mitigation.
In fact, last week I was in Lake Mead, Nevada. I’m sure you all know it, but to see it I was standing there with the amazing people who work in this field. And there is a tub ring, which is so clearly marked. It’s not even progressive. It’s not like he’s had a slow fade. It’s so clearly marked – the distinction between where water has always been and where it is now.
And the meaning of that, the contrast, just in the colors, is how quickly it all changed so drastically. And they described that the length, that the height of the receding water, is longer than the height of the Statue of Liberty. And that’s only in the last 20 years – two thousand – 2020.
We focus on climate resilience. We are focused on reducing emissions. And as we know, it has to be done with a focus on clean energy. It has to come through our focus on electric vehicles and drivetrain.
You know, electric vehicles – I was – it was one of my very – most enjoyable visits, as a vice president, to a manufacturing plant here in the United States that makes vehicles. electric. I’m just obsessed with that, and especially with school buses, because of course it’s not just about emissions, but everything that is close to our hearts in terms of environmental justice, everything that is important to us in terms of equity, and recognize and then address racial disparities.
Twenty-five million children, at least before COVID, go to school daily on current buses, which, of course, contributes to emissions and threatens our climate, but also a threat to the health and safety of these children. children. .
So those are some of the problems. And then, of course, environmental justice.
You will recall – many of you know this – when I was a district attorney in San Francisco, I created one of the first environmental justice units in the country for any attorney’s office. This is a problem that I take very seriously.
About ten years ago, as attorney general, I took a group of reporters to a place called Mira Loma, California, where the broadcasts were so intense that children in that community were noticed by the ‘one of our major universities as having the lowest rate – or the slowest rate of lung development in children anywhere.
So, these are the issues that we are focusing on. These are the issues that we favor. And the negotiations are continuing, as you all know.
But I wanted to come and tell you as well that we – the president, I and our administration – are steadfast in our commitment to these issues – absolutely steadfast.
But, you know, they – there’s an old saying, you don’t want to see sausage being made, and you don’t want to see a bill made. (To laugh.)
Sometimes it’s not a pretty sight. But the end result of – you know, unless you’re a vegan, of course – (laughs) – the end result is usually – is usually pretty – good enough.
But there is work to be done.
But I’ll just end my comments by saying that we strongly believe, as I know you do, that this is a very specific point in time. And we cannot waste, yes, the opportunities, but also the serious 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 you’ve talked about this before I stop, but I want you to know, you know, I firmly believe, as a dedicated public servant, that much of the progress we’ve made in government is due in large part to the effort and push that comes from outside to remind us of where we can go and what we need to do. And you’ve all been doing this for so long.
And it’s so good to see you all. And I want to thank you for making the trip to be here at this meeting. Thank you. (Applause.)
2:55 p.m. EDT