The Environmental Legacy of Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s Newly-Announced Running Mate
Harris is now the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to run for national office for a major political party in the U.S., the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) pointed out. She also has a strong legacy of championing environmental justice throughout her career.
"Congratulations to Senator Kamala Harris, a true environmental champion!" LCV Action Fund Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said in a statement.
@JoeBiden @KamalaHarris Her stellar 91% lifetime score on LCV's Environmental Scorecard speaks for itself:… https://t.co/ZClO9w8soC— LCV – League of Conservation Voters (@LCV – League of Conservation Voters)1597180296.0
Harris has a lifetime LCV environmental voting score of 91 percent, better than Biden's 83 percent, InsideClimate News noted. Her selection won praise from several mainstream environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth Action and Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund.
Harris is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, according to Greentech Media, and promised to end the filibuster during her own presidential campaign so that the major climate legislation would have a chance at passing. Her unique contribution to the green movement, however, is her lifetime focus on environmental justice in particular. This is a key issue for the Biden campaign as a growing awareness of the climate crisis corresponds with nationwide protests over racial injustice and health disparities made starker by the coronavirus pandemic.
When Harris served as San Francisco district attorney, she created the office's first environmental justice unit in 2005, InsideClimate News reported.
"Crimes against the environment are crimes against communities, people who are often poor and disenfranchised," Harris said at the time, as Grist reported.
She has continued championing the issue as a Senator. This summer, she introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act with Senators Tammy Duckworth and Cory Booker to ensure the federal government considers low income communities and communities of color when issuing permits, Greentech Media reported.
She also teamed up with New York Representative and Green New Deal champion Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to introduce the Climate Equity Act, which would create a new Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability within the Office of Management and Budget to make sure that all environmental legislation and regulations are assessed based on their impact on frontline communities.
The duo first proposed the act last summer and formally introduced it last week.
This week, @RepAOC and I introduced the Climate Equity Act, legislation to ensure that we center the fight against… https://t.co/bpQi8aELxk— Kamala Harris (@Kamala Harris)1596915131.0
"COVID-19 has laid bare the realities of systemic racial, health, economic, and environmental injustices that persist in our country," Harris said in a statement about the new legislation reported by The Hill. "The environment we live in cannot be disentangled from the rest of our lives, and it is more important than ever that we work toward a more just and equitable future."
During her presidential campaign and her time as California attorney general, Harris also emphasized holding fossil fuel companies accountable for their pollution, InsideClimate News pointed out.
As attorney general, she opposed a Chevron refinery expansion in Richmond, a majority Black and Hispanic community. She also sued Southern California Gas Co. over a methane blowout near Los Angeles.
Finally, she joined AGs United for Clean Power, a group of 17 attorneys general who said they would hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate change. However, Harris never actually sued ExxonMobil, despite mistakenly claiming she had during a debate last year. She did repeatedly emphasize the need to hold fossil fuel companies responsible on the campaign trail and promised to have the Department of Justice launch an investigation.
"They are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability," she said at a CNN Town Hall on climate change.
But Harris' prosecutorial record has another side. She has faced criticism from Black and progressive voters for her role as top prosecutor in a state that incarcerates African Americans at a rate five times higher than their share of the population. This has dampened her image somewhat with younger climate activists.
"I think Kamala Harris is a big win for women of color and environmental justice, however she definitely has some work to do in order to show our generation that she's become more progressive since her prosecutor days," 15-year-old climate activist and Earth Uprising founder Alexandria Villaseñor told InsideClimate News.
On the environmental front, Harris' weaknesses include the fact that she was one of the last Democratic candidates to unveil a climate plan, and, when she did, it did not include a ban on fracking, Grist pointed out. She has also accepted donations from fossil fuel companies in the past, though she pledged not to do so this election.
Weighing Harris' legacy, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash said the Senator was willing to grow in response to criticism.
"Throughout the course of her campaign for President, Senator Kamala Harris showed her responsiveness to activist and movement pressure to make climate a top priority, and demonstrated her willingness to be held accountable," Prakash said in a statement reported by Greentech Media. "I'm also deeply aware of Senator Harris' record as a prosecutor and the ways in which a number of her decisions harmed communities of color, which our movement has spoken about in the past and will continue to."
- Kamala Harris Introduces Environmental Justice Bill in Senate ... ›
- Harris and AOC Introduce Climate Equity Act to Protect Frontline ... ›
- 145 Progressive Groups Urge Biden to Shun Fossil Fuel Execs and Lobbyists - EcoWatch ›
- Thom Yorke of Radiohead Releases Song With Greenpeace to Help ... ›
- Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, Flea and More Featured on Just Released ... ›
- Musicians and Activists Unite at 'Pathway to Paris' - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.
- Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam Swap Plastic Packaging for ... ›
- Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It ... ›
- Thailand Begins the New Year With Plastic Bag Ban - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Marium, Thailand's Beloved Baby Dugong, Is the Latest Victim of ... ›
By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
- 7 Republicans Joined Senate Democrats in Vote to Fight Climate ... ›
- Climate Change Acknowledged by Increasing Number of ... ›
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election ›
- Fauci Warns Pre-Pandemic Normalcy Not Likely Until Late 2021 ... ›
By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.