Remarks by Vice President Harris at the Young Climate Leaders Convening Event

Published: Fri Jun 16 2023

Northfield High SchoolDenver, Colorado THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Please have a seat. Good afternoon. It’s great to be back in Colorado. Thank you all. I want to thank Gabe and Mariah. We spent a really wonderful amount of time back in one of the classrooms with the Earth Rangers. Where are the Earth Rangers? Where are you? (Applause.) They’re - they’re incredible students from every age who are taking on the responsibility to lead the rest of us on these very important issues. And it really has been a joy to be with you all this afternoon. And I want to thank you, and for your words and for your leadership. Mayor Michael Hancock, thank you, always, for a warm welcome. It is so good to see you again. And thank you for welcoming us yet again back to Denver. Senator Michael Bennett, my dear friend, we served together in the United States Senate. And I’ve seen your senator in rooms when the cameras are on, when the cameras are off. He’s the same person. He’s always fighting for the people of Colorado, for working people, and for the future of our country. So, Michael Bennett, thank you for who you are. (Applause.) Thank you. Dianna DeGette, a leading voice on the issue of environmental justice and so many more issues. (Applause.) She and I have actually worked together on a number of the most pressing issues of this time, including our collective fight for our democracy. I thank you for that, Congresswoman. And, Governor Jared Polis, thank you. A true partner to our administration from the very first days that the President and I came in, dealing with some major - some of the most major crises that our country has faced. You have been an extraordinary partner to us. And, of course, again I will say it is an honor to be here today with so many young leaders. (Applause.) So - yes. Yes. (Applause.) So, you know, many of us study history. And as you study our nation’s history, it is always quite clear, when you track nearly every movement in our country that has been about progress, we have had young leaders at the head. Every one of them. John Lewis - the great John Lewis - was only 23 when he spoke at the March on Washington. Diane Nash was just 21 when she led the Nashville sit-ins. When the suffragists marched to win the sacred freedom to vote, they were led by folks like Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, a 15-year-old who led 10,000 activists through New York City on horseback. And today, two of the most recent leaders in the fight against gun violence, two members of the Tennessee Three - the two Justins - are both in their twenties. And actually, on this point, I will say that yesterday's shooting at the victory celebration for the Denver Nuggets only underscores the urgency of action on gun violence. (Applause.) Which, again, our young leaders are showing the way. And so, on this issue and so many others, it is our young leaders who are our conscience and are guiding our nation. And I will say, then, to you, it is because you have a unique ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been. You, the young leaders of America, have the courage to work to realize a vision of what is possible, and you have the determination and the personal investment in a better future for our nation and our world. Young leaders know we do not have time to waste. And that is especially true of those who are with us here today. I’ve spent time with them this afternoon. And I will tell you that they understand the threat of the climate crisis. You young leaders have known it your entire lives. Every day brings another reminder, from wildfire smoke, to extreme heat, to floods. You, our young leaders, have seen the chaos and the devastation created in the wake of these disasters. And you have endured the mental and emotional toll of this crisis. In fact, so many of our young leaders have talked to me about it, and they’ve told me, “Well, you know, we have a name for it.It’s called ‘climate anxiety.’” In this moment, given all the threats we face, it is our young leaders who understand clearly: The clock is not just ticking; it is banging. And so I have come to Denver because I have heard about and been inspired by how the young leaders here have chosen to respond. And I have come here, then, to personally meet with them, because in the face of a global crisis, they took action. They organized students from sustainability clubs in schools across the district, and convened every Wednesday - every Wednesday to draft a plan for climate action. You, the young leaders that I’ve met with, met with teachers and administrators and school board members to learn how a proposal becomes a policy in your district. And then, to put that knowledge to work, as you advocated for your plan at school board meetings and public comment sessions. That is a daunting task for many an adult. And some of the young leaders admitted to me that when they first got up to the mic, it was a bit stressful, but they were relentless. When I was talking with them, they said, “Yeah, it was a little stressful, but by the end, when I spoke, I felt a great sense of release and relief because I let it out, and I’d let people know what their work will do to impact my life.” That’s what they’re talking about. And as a result of your activism, I say to the young leaders: Last year, Denver Public Schools became one of the first school districts in our nation to adopt a climate action plan. (Applause.) Right? One of the first. And so, this work and this achievement is a model for young leaders across our nation. And that’s why I wanted to come here today, because these leaders have shown that when students organize, when students fight for climate action in their communities, it can drive real, tangible, and important progress. And in the years to come, I am certain that the plan that these leaders drafted and passed will impact hundreds and thousands of students, parents, and educators around our country - people you may never meet, people who may never know your name, but whose lives will forever be changed because of your advocacy. And you, in your brilliance, with this work you have done - and again, I am speaking to these young leaders - you all have also figured out what some refer to as the “inside-outside game.” The inside-outside game - right? - which is: To make change, we need folks on the inside, in government and in positions of power, to work for progress. And just as important, we need leaders and activists on the outside, the folks like you who organize and advocate and demand change. (Applause.) Yes. Folks like you who have demanded that those of us on the inside treat the climate crisis as the crisis it is - not “soon,” not “someday,” but now. And so that is what we are all here to do and to work together. And that is what President Biden and I have been doing over the course of the last two and a half years: working with your support to make the largest climate investment in our nation's history - nearly a trillion dollars for our communities. So, for example, what this work will achieve relates to students around America. Because, you see, every day, millions of students in our country ride to and from school on a diesel school bus. The estimates I've seen are as many as 25 million children a day. And in so doing, they breathe toxic exhaust that can cause headaches and nausea, worsen asthma and chronic bronchitis, and even increase the risk of cancer. Well, we decided it is time to get in front of this and deal with it. And so, we have invested $5 billion to put thousands of new electric school buses on the road - (applause) - because we believe essential rights are at play, including the essential right of every person to be able to breathe clean air. We are also taking on the problem of lead pipes. I don't need to tell the parents and - and grandparents and those who are here about what that means, because so many parents and grandparents, for years in our country, have been talking about the fact that across our nation, in up to 10 million homes, in thousands of schools and childcare facilities, water is flowing through lead pipes. But with the partnership of the advocates and the activists here, our administration made an historic investment to remove every lead pipe in our nation, and we are on track to see that through. (Applause.) We are also fighting to help protect against extreme weather, in part by funding thousands of climate resilience projects, from restoring mangroves - we talked about that with some of the leaders back there - to reduce storm surge, to improving ground water storage to help communities during drought. And I’ll tell you, as a Californian, I was so happy to arrive here in the rain. (Laughs.) Of course, those from western states know that it’s a good day when it’s a rainy day. But, Denver, I’ll tell you, when we took office, President Biden set an ambitious goal: By no later than 2030, our nation would cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half. And by no later than 2050, we would reach net-zero emissions. (Applause.) And so there’s work then to do, once we set a goal, to achieve that goal. So part of the plan to meet that goal is we passed tax credits for families and businesses to help them install solar panels, upgrade their HVAC systems, and invest in other clean energy and energy efficiency projects. Projects that will also have the benefit of creating jobs and, of course, cutting emissions and lowering energy costs. And recently, we made some important changes to our tax system to make sure that nonprofits and religious organizations and public schools can also benefit for the first time from clean energy tax credits. So, because of these changes, school districts across our country will be eligible to save 30 percent on more clean energy projects. (Applause.) So these are but some examples, all to say that we have made good progress together over the past two years, but we have more to do. We have a lot more to do. So to all the students watching across our nation: You are the leaders in this climate movement - in this movement for climate action. And to continue our progress, we need you. We need you. We need your courage. We need your commitment. We need your truth telling and truth speaking. We need your determination. And we need your vision. We need your work on the outside and on the inside. And like the young leaders here in Denver, I say to young leaders around our country: We need you to organize. And guess what? Summer break is a great time for organizing.(Laughs.) (Applause.) No time like the present. (Applause.) Ah, summer break, think about it: It’s a perfect time to find other students who are passionate about fighting the climate crisis; a time to draft your own climate action plan; a time to reach out to teachers and administrators and school board members to learn how that plan might be adopted; and to follow the model that was developed right here in Denver; to make your voices heard. Our nation is counting on you all. And President Biden and I will be with you every step of the way. (Applause.) May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you all. (Applause.) The post Remarks by Vice President Harris at the Young Climate Leaders Convening Event appeared first on The White House.

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