Sen. Brian Schatz has arrived in Scotland for the United Nations climate conference, representing the United States and Hawaii, which he says has become a climate change leader.
The conference, known as COP26, is considered the most important climate meeting since Paris in 2015 and will end on Nov. 12.
Schatz, who arrived on Friday, said that in the past Hawaii spoke of being a climate change leader as an aspiration. But with the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative’s commitment to shift to 100% clean energy by 2045 and Gov. David Ige’s vow to protect 30% of Hawaiian waters by 2030, Schatz said the state has indeed become a leader in climate change adaptation.
“I’m also here in partnership with the Biden administration to send a message to the world that America is back,” Schatz said. “The good news is that we are now on the cusp of making the biggest climate action in U.S. history.”
But the climate-focused portion of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan — a 10-year, $1.75 trillion commitment to bolster infrastructure, create more jobs and address the changing environment — no longer included a provision for a carbon tax, something Schatz has supported for years.
“I think a price on carbon is the next and most important step,” he said.
The bill was expected to face a vote on Friday but was delayed until sometime before Thanksgiving.
On Friday, Schatz met with representatives of Brazil and France in Edinburgh to discuss the Forest Act, which he introduced in October.
The legislation, introduced by the senator and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), aimed to reduce incentives of deforestation for agriculture use, which would be leveraged to change laws and improve monitoring and enforcement in countries experiencing illegal deforestation.
“This is a global issue, this is about tropical rainforests in Asia, south and central America, being lit on fire and cut down, mostly for cattle ranching and soy farming,” he said.
But for the issue to be properly addressed, it needs to be ratified by law, he added.
Schatz will be met by the rest of congressional delegation on climate change on Saturday, for the remainder of the conference.
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Thomas Heaton is a Li Center for Global Journalism Fellow, a position supported by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Institute for Nonprofit News. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @thomasheaton.