WASHINGTON — A group of current and incoming representatives – plus one sitting senator – reiterated their demands on Thursday that the incoming Biden administration put forward massive, progressive action on climate change.
Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ro Khanna were joined by representatives-elect Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones outside DNC headquarters alongside climate activists to push for action that addresses the concerns of everyone in the United States — not just white Americans.
The representatives were joined by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who was among those who signed on to the Green New Deal in 2019, and who agreed that climate change is also an issue of racial justice. Markey said his incoming colleagues represent “this revolution changing the way in which people see the issue of climate change in our lives.”
Markey further called on the president-elect to use the funding to fix “the obvious reality that Black and brown communities have always breathed different air than white, suburban communities in the United States of America.”
The group argued that minority communities are affected by climate issues at a much higher rate than white Americans, saying it is a matter of life and death.
“I think we need to make sure something is very clear: when we don't act, people who look like me die,” congresswoman-elect Cori Bush of Missouri said on Wednesday, before addressing President-elect Biden directly. "Black and brown communities showed up for you. Show up for us.”
“It’s not good enough to just do different, we’ve got to do bold. We’ve got to do change that happens now. We’ve got to make sure that Black folks, brown folks, every marginalized group, our indigenous folks, feel our change. And so that’s why we’re here, we need change that everybody can feel,” Bush concluded.
Biden himself has walked a precarious line when it comes to climate change. His position on the topic gained traction after the final presidential debate, when President Trump attacked the “Green New Deal” put forth by Ocasio-Cortez and over a hundred other lawmakers. Biden did not support the full Green New Deal, but has acknowledged it is an important framework to follow when putting forward climate proposals.
“They know nothing about the climate,” Trump said of Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive congress members during the October debate. “I mean she’s got a good line of stuff but she knows nothing about the climate, and they’re all hopping through hoops for AOC plus three. Not a real plan, it costs $100 trillion.”
In reality, Biden’s proposed climate plan costs a fraction of Trump’s estimate — over the summer, then-candidate Biden unveiled his $2 trillion plan to move away from reliance on oil and gas and boost renewable energy over the next four years.
On Thursday, activists and lawmakers stressed that the president-elect had previously pledged 40% of his climate budget will go towards minority communities—and they plan to hold him to it come January.
“This is an urgent matter that we have to deal with. We are living in a climate catastrophe,” said Congressman-elect Jamaal Bowman of New York’s 16th district. “Biden has pledged a $2 trillion investment in environmental justice, and 40 percent of that has been pledged to districts like mine across the country.”
“That 40 percent has to be part of a green new deal that rebuilds Black and brown communities across this country,” Bowman continued.
According to a number of studies, Minority populations are at much higher risks for climate-related health issues than white Americans.
Numerous studies have shown that waste from fracking tends to be disproportionately stored in poor communities and neighborhoods of color, which leads to the contamination of drinking water.
The American Chemical Society found that worldwide, people of color are more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution. A 2018 study from the Environmental Protection Agency declared that at national, state, and county levels, white Americans are far less likely to be burdened by harmful carcinogens than their non-white counterparts.
The representatives shared a swath of ideas on how to best address the racial inequalities associated with climate change. Create millions of sustainable, eco friendly jobs, said Ocasio-Cortez; strengthen infrastructure to better withstand weather events, suggested Jones.
And while the Biden administration may not be moving towards such progressive goals as quickly as the group would like, all of the representatives on Thursday urged their constituents not to give up hope.
Ocasio-Cortez, who served on Biden’s climate policy panel during his campaign, assured viewers that they are making progress on addressing climate change. Describing Biden and his team as “decent, kind, and honorable,” Ocasio-Cortez added: "I don't want anyone here to think we are not winning. We are winning. We are going to secure the tenets of a Green New Deal.”