Democratic US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said people should not expect governments or the COP26 conference to solve the climate crisis.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez made the remarks on an Instagram Live chat as she is part of a congressional delegation to the climate conference in Glasgow.
“There are some things that I saw in that room that I’m like, if the world is relying on COP and governments to stop climate change, that is not going to happen,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said. “Governments are a very important, critical, determining aspect to stopping climate change but they are not the only aspect and so fact of the matter is, grassroots collective people’s organising is going to be extremely critical in solving the climate crisis.”
The self-identified democratic socialist also compared attempts to build universalized health care systems in places like the United Kingdom to Democrats’ proposed Build Back Better legislation.
“Which is like a bare minimum step that we need in Congress,” she said.
Similarly, Ms Ocasio-Cortez told her followers on Instagram that domestic politics were not the only roadblock to managing climate change, but also specifically pointed to how governments like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s will not make any commitments on climate change because it is a developing nation that didn’t get the opportunity to grow and use fossil fuels in the same way Western countries did.
“So OK, you hear that, but also climate change,” she said. “So what do we do? First of all, we have to think about this assumption of ‘you have to burn oil and gas in order to industrialise.’ We have new technologies that are emerging. The thing is, is that it’s wealthy nations that are really leading the charge on the development of those technologies.”
She also drew a link between right-wing nationalists like Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and support for the fossil fuel industry.
“I will say that I believe there is absolutely unquestionably from Donald Trump to Bolsonaro a connection between authoritarianism and protection and acceleration of fossil fuel interests,” she said. “It is unquestionably a very, very tight link. I think it has to do with structures of fascism, but I’ll keep that aside.”
At the same time, Ms Ocasio-Cortez said that there was reason to have hope during the negotiations.
“The political pressure, the people being in the streets, the protests and the anger, and even some people trying to stoke cynicism, has put very real pressure on governments to deliver at COP,” she said.
“Now I am pretty sure that many of these results are going to be underwhelming and disappointing for a lot of people,” she said. But also said there were reasons for optimism such as the United States and China announcing a joint declaration to tackle the climate crisis in the next decade.
“The good news is that we need governments to step up and I do believe that there is a lot of commitment from very wealthy countries and some of the countries that emitting most from the climate crisis to step up,” she said. “I think that is in no small part due to the change in public opinion.
An architect of the “Green New Deal” legislation, Ms Ocasio-Cortez also said that the legislation, which is not in Congress and is not part of the proposed Build Back Better legislation being discussed at the moment, has been derided but that it has changed the conversation.
"You can talk whatever smack you want about the Green New Deal, the fact is, you're talking about it," she said. "People can hate all they want, whether it is on climate, whether it is on our criminal system, whether it is on whatever, if you are reacting to our idea, then we are setting an anchor value."