Rep. Debbie Dingell attends U.N. Climate Conference

Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 5:01pm

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., traveled with a delegation to the Madrid Climate Convention 2019 December 2.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., traveled with a delegation to the Madrid Climate Convention 2019 December 2. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., joined a bicameral delegation to the Madrid Climate Convention 2019 on Dec. 2. 

The conference is the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties. Along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other key Democrats, Dingell joined other international leaders for a weeklong convention to discuss steps forward with the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016. This was the first time Dingell traveled to a Conference of the Parties. 

The Paris Climate Agreement’s central aim is to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” The treaty was signed on April 22, 2016 by 196 state parties. 

Dingell noted the importance of staying on track with the Paris Climate Agreement, even if the Trump administration is planning on formally withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement within the next year. 

“The Trump Administration is sadly moving to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and refuses to acknowledge the science or urgency to act,” Dingell said. “Participants at COP25 will lay out crucial steps and implement guidelines to reduce greenhouse gases — it’s critical our nation be represented at the coalition. American leadership is at the center of rising to the moment to protect our planet for future generations.” 

In a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Pelosi stated that extreme actions are necessary to combat climate change and there is significant bicameral support in Congress.

“Our delegation is here to send a message that Congress’s commitment to taking action on the climate crisis is ironclad,” Pelosi said. “We must act, because the climate crisis for us is a matter of public health, clean air, clean water for children’s survival; our economy, advancing green, global – green technologies, which will lift everyone up as we address income disparity in the world,” Pelosi said. 

The convention comes at a time when the climate crisis has been heavily discussed in Ann Arbor politics. On Nov. 4, the Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2030. Additionally, earlier this year, demonstrators staged a sit-in in the Fleming Administration Building demanding a meeting with the University of Michigan administration to address how the University plans on achieving carbon neutrality. This has placed additional pressures on University President Mark Schlissel as he balances the University’s carbon neutrality plan with continuing to fund the University as a research institution.

Public Policy senior and Ann Arbor native Bernadette Fitzsimons was enthusiastic about Dingell’s inclusion in the delegation. 

“I believe climate change is a priority for Congresswoman Dingell,” Fitzsimons said. “I think she is one of the hardest working members of Congress. She is deeply committed to her constituents, and I believe she understands that creating a sustainable future is key to the well-being of her constituents.” 

Yet the response to the climate crisis hasn’t been moving fast enough for some constituents. Over the past few months, several protesters have occupied Dingell’s office to urge her to support the Green New Deal.

Zaynab Elkolaly, a student at student at Washtenaw Technical Middle College and a member of the Sunrise Movement, expressed disappointment in Dingell’s lack of substantial actions regarding climate change. 

“It is important, first and foremost, on paper that we represent the Green New Deal as a nation, but it is also important to represent it in actions too,” Elkolaly said. “Politicians are quick to be glad about wanting to end climate change and how much of an emergency it is,” she said. “And then, they’ll proceed to take thousands and thousands of dollars … from big corporations.”

In an interview with The Daily, Dingell’s primary challenger, Solomon Rajput, argued members of Congress tasked with representing the United States at the United Nations Climate Convention should be at the forefront of climate change policies. Rajput noted this holds particularly true since the convention is being held in Spain, which is one of the most progressive countries in fighting climate change.

“Spain is one of the forefront countries when it comes to tackling climate change. They themselves have embraced the idea of a Green New Deal, which is pretty cool,” Rajput said. “Almost all of the progressives have signed onto the Green New Deal. Congresswoman Dingell is one of the last progressives to not sign onto it. … We need a representative who (is) going to be championing a Green New Deal if they are going to be out there representing us when it comes to Climate Change.” 

Fitzsimons said she admires Dingell’s care in representing all constituents in her district, and not those just in Ann Arbor. 

“It is also worth noting that groups which represent autoworkers in her district, like the United Auto Workers, have not come out in support of the Green New Deal. I think encouraging labor organizations like the UAW to support policies to combat the climate crisis is key to creating a sustainable future for Michigan,” Fitzsimons said. “Of course, the climate crisis poses an existential threat to all of her constituents. But I believe Congresswoman Dingell understands this, and aims to act in a way that will best serve all her constituents in both the long and short run.”