If you watched any part of the four-day Republican National Convention (RNC), you probably noticed that climate change—the most existential threat our planet is facing—was not a topic of discussion. The president has consistently denied the effects of global warming, and even mocked teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg a day after she was named Time Person of the Year in 2019. Meanwhile, the Democrats have a largely opposing view on the climate than the Republicans, and gave the topic some air time at the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
As for where vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) stands on the topic, she is unequivocally a supporter of the Green New Deal. However, her vote—or lack thereof—on the legislation brought to the Senate floor last year may cause some confusion to voters. She declared herself "present" when the Green New Deal was voted on in the Senate, meaning she did not participate in the 57-to-0 vote. Harris wasn't the only one to do this. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are amongst the group of senators who followed suit in protest of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's ploy for them to take a stand knowing the legislation would not be passed. Harris expanded on her reasoning in a press release on March 26, 2019:
"Climate change is an existential threat, and confronting it requires bold action. I’m a proud cosponsor of Senator Markey’s Green New Deal resolution," she stated. "Political stunts won’t get us anywhere. Combatting this crisis first requires the Republican majority to stop denying science and finally admit that climate change is real and humans are the dominant cause. Then we can get serious about taking action to tackle the climate crisis at the scale of the problem."
Climate change is an imminent threat to our planet unless we correct course. It’s within our power to do so. Now is the time. pic.twitter.com/q1mToVv6GEFebruary 18, 2019
Throughout her political career, Harris has been a major proponent of climate change proposals. Before Harris was officially selected as the VP nominee, most recently she worked with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) on the Climate Equality Act of 2020 that "would require the government to make stronger consideration of racial and economic inequalities in its environmental policies," per The Hill. (This is a pillar of the Green New Deal, and part of Biden's overall climate plan. More on that below.) Additionally, Harris' original climate plan as a 2020 presidential nominee included holding polluters accountable for their actions and "investing $10 trillion in public and private funding to meet the initial 10-year mobilization necessary to stave off the worst climate impacts." (You can read more on that here.)
Communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis must be at the forefront of the solutions that we put forward. #ClimateTownHallpic.twitter.com/wGO6NAT96ESeptember 4, 2019
So, where does this leave us today? Upon being elected, Harris has the opportunity to make Biden's climate plan even stronger, with both candidates supporting the Green New Deal and agreeing on the desperate need for environmental justice. As he writes on his website, "Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected."
Currently, Biden's $2 trillion climate plan includes a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100 percent clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emission no later than 2050, demanding that Congress enacts climate change legislation in the first year of his presidency, recommitting the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change on day one, preserving and implementing the existing Clean Air Act, making sure our cities have access to clean water, investing in climate research, and ultimately creating an additional 10 million U.S. jobs that will help achieve all of this. Per his plan, Biden also pledges that "he will make it a priority for all agencies to engage in community-driven approaches to develop solutions for environmental injustices affecting communities of color, low-income, and indigenous communities."
After you've watched the video above, you can read Biden's full, updated climate plan here.
Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.
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