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Green New Deal Champion AOC Will Serve on Biden Climate Panel

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Green New Deal Champion AOC Will Serve on Biden Climate Panel
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., along with affordable housing advocates and climate change activists announce the introduction of public housing legislation as part of the Green New Deal outside the Capitol on Nov. 14, 2019. Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

When former Vice President Joe Biden effectively clinched the Democratic nomination in April, one major concern for the climate movement was the fact that his plan for tackling the issue was less ambitious than that of some of his primary rivals.


But Biden signaled a willingness to boost his climate platform. And now, Green-New-Deal champion Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has agreed to serve on a panel helping him shape his plan to address the climate crisis.

"She made the decision with members of the Climate Justice community — and she will be fully accountable to them and the larger advocacy community during this process," a representative of the Congresswoman told Reuters by email Tuesday. "She believes the movement will only be successful if we continue to apply pressure both inside and outside the system."

Ocasio-Cortez has made a name for herself in Congress as an advocate for a Green New Deal to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels while providing jobs and supporting greater equality. In the primaries, she endorsed Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whose climate plan promised $16.3 trillion for a Green New Deal-type mobilization and earned a 94 out of 100 on Greenpeace's climate scorecard. Biden's initial plan, meanwhile, promised only $1.7 trillion and earned a 72 from Greenpeace.

But when Sanders, the last major primary contender to drop out, endorsed Biden, the campaign announced a series of task forces that would work to bring together supporters of the two candidates on issues from health care to criminal justice to the economy, CNN explained. It is the climate-centered of these task forces that Ocasio-Cortez will be serving on, as Biden himself confirmed in an interview with News8 in Las Vegas Tuesday.

"I'm working with Bernie and with his people. And so, and we've made some changes. We've listened to Bernie supporters and, you know, for example, we have Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, she is on one of the panels," Biden said.

A source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN that Ocasio-Cortez would actually be co-chairing the panel.

Ocasio-Cortez spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told NBC News the Congresswoman would be representing Sanders on the panel.

When the panels were first announced, Sanders explained them as a way to unify the Democratic party's progressive and moderate wings.

"It's no great secret out there, Joe, that you and I have our differences, and we're not going to paper them over. That's real," Sanders said, as CNN reported. "But I hope that these task forces will come together utilizing the best minds and people in your campaign and in my campaign to work out real solutions to these very, very important problems."

Biden told News8 he was reaching out to Sanders supporters, but said their positions were not as far as voters may have believed.

"My message to all — and what they're finding out now that the nomination process is de facto over, they're finding out the positions I had on an awful lot of things were not accurately characterized and they're feeling more comfortable with it," Biden said, as NBC News reported. "But I'm listening. I'm here, I need them, and I hope they all will join us."

President Donald Trump, who Biden will be running against in November, has not taken any steps to address the climate crisis and has a Greenpeace score of zero.

"Trump denies the reality of the climate crisis and is actively promoting fossil fuels while weakening existing climate protections. His Cabinet is filled with former coal and oil lobbyists. Trump gets an 'F' for putting our most vulnerable communities — and our very futures — at risk," Greenpeace wrote.

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The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

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"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

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