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Sen. Rosen's takeaways from attending COP26 climate summit

A headshot of Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada.
Senator Jacky Rosen

U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen was Nevada's sole Congressional representative during the recent COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. The state's junior senator met with climate officials and world leaders to come up with ideas and solutions to solve climate challenges here at home.

KUNR's Noah Glick chatted with Rosen this week from her office in Washington, D.C. to see what she learned from the conference.

Noah Glick: Tell me a little bit about your role during the climate conference there in Scotland. What you were hoping to accomplish and what did you learn from that conference?

Sen. Jacky Rosen: We spent a few days over in Scotland, and I can tell you it's probably the most important climate change conference since the 2015 Paris Accords because we don't have to look any further than our own backyard to see that climate change is an urgent global threat. Think about Northern Nevada. Think about the wildfires that we had this year, the poor air quality. Think about the drought that's impacting, not just Nevada, but all the Western states. It's really important we talk about those.

And in Nevada, it's also important that we realize we have the resources to innovate and create the new energy jobs of the future, and export that, because we have wind, water, solar and geothermal. So, we have more solar jobs per capita than any state in the country. We're No. 2 in geothermal energy, but honestly we have have enough geothermal where we can, if used correctly, we can be No. 1 in the country in geothermal energy. Of course, I don't have to tell anybody we have wind and, of course, down south, we have the Hoover dam, so we even have hydropower. So, I think through investments in research and development, we can create those good jobs and that technology of the future that is going to help us transition to a more sustainable one - better for our economy.

Glick: I'm glad you brought up the economy because I wanted to ask about that. We're still recovering economically here in Nevada from the pandemic, so how do we manage the different concerns and impacts that industry may be facing while we're looking to rebound, while still holding companies accountable for adopting cleaner climate practices?

Sen. Rosen: Well, I think we have to incentivize the change and we have to make sure that we don't leave anyone behind, so what does that mean? It means talking to the companies about what they're doing and who they need to be and what they need to do. So, helping them to incentivize their investment and training, research and development, and retraining workers or training workers for the jobs of the future. We have to make a huge investment in workforce training.

And like I said, solar, we have more jobs per capita in that. If we can continue to increase that, we can create more jobs. And, so, I think a huge investment in workforce training to be sure nobody is left behind. We should be able to do that and incentivize companies for doing the right thing. I think that's how we move forward.

Glick: You were the sole representative of Nevada's congressional delegation in Glasgow, so I'm just curious, what were some of your main priorities in representing the state? And are there any findings or items that came out of this summit that will impact Nevada directly?

Sen. Rosen: Well, I think all of it impacts Nevada. You know, I can tell you that I am a part of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus here in the Senate, and we've already put forth some bipartisan legislation in order to help small farmers have access to the SBA (Small Business Administration) in order to do carbon capture. Some of the goals that we have for the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus is to try to find ways that in our communities, whether they're urban or rural/frontier, like we have in Nevada all around our state, that they have the opportunity to be part of this transition and this change.

You know what? In Nevada, we love our public lands. We love our scenery. We love our state. And, so, I can tell you that everyone I talk to wants to be a good steward of our beautiful lakes from Lake Tahoe to Lake Mead, our mountain ranges [and] our air quality. And, so, it's important that we do it in a way that everyone can be proud of and everybody can take part in.

And, so, as we begin to see other communities doing research and development that we can partner with, we're going to continue to do that. I'm looking forward to doing that with some other countries who have [a] climate similar to ours in Nevada, and working with those like the Desert Research Institute down south, in order to find those great solutions, particularly on drought, that's affecting our entire state, causing these massive wildfires, and then, of course, affecting the air we breathe. So, there's a lot at stake, a lot to do, and we've got our work cut out for us, but there's no time to waste. We're going to get right to it.

Glick: I want to ask about that real quick as well. One of the big items that came out of this summit was the agreement among 197 countries that says, 'We're all going to meet again in a year to report progress toward climate ambitions.' Critics have said that we're short on time and that this is not enough. Even the UN (United Nations) Chief (António Guterres) came out and said that [agreement] is not enough. So, in your view, is that enough? Or what else can we do to kind of speed up the process?

Sen. Rosen: Well, I think what we have to do is just get started it. And so you can't let inaction, just because something may or may not be enough, you can't let that prevent you from getting started. So, we have to get started. We have to do it today because this climate change, this is a public health threat, it's an economic threat and it's environmental issue for every single community. And so we have to get started.

I believe that once we start innovating, creating, thinking together about training the workforce, harnessing the power of technology and sustainable energy, we can export those kinds of jobs and technologies across all 50 states and around the world and our collaboration and partnership, and this kind of research and training, is really going to move us forward. And the more we do that, [the] faster we get started, I believe it will continue to build on itself in greater force, kind of like a snowball that rolls down the hill, right? Once you get started, you see people collaborating, you see what is working in one community, and another community takes that up. This is how we model success, and that's how you have to do that.

We need to be leaders, show people how it's done and help other communities do that as well, and bring them up with us, and that's what I'm hoping to do. We'll just get started right away and meet back in a year and see where we've come and where we need to go.

Glick: As you know, the infrastructure bill has passed. So, just quickly, how does that sort of fit into this overall theme of climate change? How will this passage of the infrastructure bill help in the fight against climate change as well?

Sen. Rosen: Well, I can tell you that there are provisions; there's a whole section in there for wildfire and drought management, research and technology. Like I said, we know all the Western states are experiencing extreme drought. In most cases we know we're experiencing extreme wildfires. Nobody wants to see their homes and communities burned down. Nobody wants to see children or seniors or anyone breathing that air, that smoke from the fires. So wildfire and drought, that's one really big way for us in the West Coast and, specifically in Nevada, that we're gonna see from bipartisan Infrastructure Investment [and Jobs] Act.

Of course, I also think when we make our roads and bridges, our ports, all of that smarter [and] communicate better together, it will also make us more efficient. We're going to have more electric cars. That's going to really incentivize our car manufacturers and people to purchase electric cars so they can travel across the country, just like they do in the cars they have now. When we make our airports more efficient, that's going to be better for tourism. I talk about tourism all day for Nevada. But, when we upgrade our airports and we have things that are in a better place, more sustainable, our runways, all of that, it's gonna make a huge difference. So, there's a lot to see.

Of course, broadband; we're going to see that $65 billion. I helped write that text, my Middle Mile Broadband Deployment bill, the base text for the broadband buildout across America, be sure we leave no one behind when it comes to access to good quality internet that you need for education, for work, for your business, whatever that is. And, we just got so much in there. It's going to come out within about the next six months. You'll start seeing money over the next five years, over $4 billion coming to Nevada from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Jacky Rosen is Nevada's junior U.S. Senator, who has been serving in the Senate since 2019.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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