During talks at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday afternoon, the New York Democrat told the long-awaited “conference of the parties” that “America is back”.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said the country was back not only “at COP” but also “on the international stage as a leader on climate action”, citing a number of measures being pursued by Democrats and the Biden administration since the start of 2021.
“One thing that I think is so exciting about this time is that when we say the United States is back, it’s not just that we’re back in the way that the United States was pursuing climate policy before,” she told a panel. “It is different, and I would argue [that] it is a fundamentally different approach.”
The Democrat, who has pushed for her “Green New Deal” proposals to be included in a $1.75trn (£1.29trn) social spending bill that is currently winding its way through Congress, added at COP26 that she had been on the streets of New York calling for change – and that it was now finally being reflected in Washington DC.
“I think what we saw, throughout the uprisings during the Trump era, through the increased sophistication of mobilisation of climate grassroots, was an alternative path, an alternative framework for how we pursue climate justice,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez was reported as saying.
She went on to argue that, “With the election of President Biden, who during his pursuit of election invited grassroots organisations to the table... we have seen the successful translation of that grassroots frame into federal policy.”
While many of the proposals for Mr Biden’s social spending package were pulled because of centrist and conservative opposition to the cost of the original trillion-dollar plan, the final bill is expected to feature funding for improving public transport and for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps.
The latter proposal was advanced by Ms Ocasio-Cortez and her Democrat colleague and US senator Ed Markey, and will see hundreds employed in climate-related action.
“We’re seeing now, especially with the Build Back Better act before Congress, enormous, unprecedented amounts of spending in not just emissions drawdown, but investments in frontline communities,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said in Glasgow.
Asked whether or not the US had fully recovered from Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris agreement to hold temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Ms Ocasio-Cortez responded: “No, we have not recovered our moral authority, I believe we are making steps.”
“We have to actually deliver the action in order to get the respect and authority internationally. We have to draw down emissions to get credit internationally, it’s that simple.”
She also highlighted the carbon footprint of America’s military, which receives immense funding annually and contributes 60m tonnes of carbon dioxide all around the world per year.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said new technologies would allow the US military to decarbonise in future, but admitted that attempts at reducing the Defence Department’s emissions would make a “big difference” to the country’s contributions to a warming climate.
The COP26 summit in Glashow runs until the end of this week.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.