We often assume that New York City is so full of vibrant, bustling crowds that it must have seen everything. But on August 28th, it just might have seen something brand new when a zero-emissions boat, the Malizia II, docked in New York harbor. This unique boat, fully equipped with solar panels and electric generating turbines, had spent the past two weeks carrying youth climate activist Greta Thunberg across the Atlantic ocean. Thunberg, a Swedish citizen, made this journey to the United States for a series of rallies and protests, with the hope to convince U.S. policymakers to embrace greener policies. Whether or not the Trump Administration chooses to listen to Thunberg, thousands of American youth have already heard her loud and clear. Since her arrival, she’s been joined by hundreds of local youth for protests outside the White House, with dozens more protests planned for September 20th-27th as part of a week-long youth climate strike. These youth are a growing population of voters whose support will be key in many of the upcoming 2020 elections.
The commitment to climate justice that young voters are demonstrating has forced climate change to become a hot button issue. Not only for the upcoming presidential elections, but for hundreds of local elections as well. Notable local champions of climate change include Illinois’ own Robert Emmons Jr. He’s a congressional candidate for Illinois’ first district, facing off against 26-year incumbent Bobby Rush. Emmons recently became People for Bernie’s very first endorsement of the election cycle for his fight against climate injustice. In recent years, Chicago politics has seen an increasing number of young candidates running for office on platforms of criminal justice reform, improved quality of education, or better economic development for Chicago’s under-resourced communities.
And while Robert Emmons’ platform embraces all of those things, it’s unique in its focus on how climate change intersects with so many of Illinois’ key social issues. His climate justice plan not only wants to create environmentally friendly infrastructure, provide lead-free water to all Illinois residents, and transition to renewable energy sources, but also seeks to ensure that Chicago’s minorities don’t get left behind during this important change. One of the major steps Emmons wants to take toward climate justice is the passing of a Green New Deal. If passed, this would promise net-zero emissions, a full transition to clean and renewable energy, and create millions of new job opportunities. While Emmon’s platform itself is unique, his passion for the Green New Deal is something he shares with many of the country’s other progressive candidates.
This is especially clear in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. Every single one of Donald Trump’s democratic challengers have addressed their support (or in some cases, their lack of support) for a Green New Deal. In a previous article we discussed some notable candidates who promote a Green New Deal. But there are still many more democratic candidates, and one of them might be the next president of the United States, so it’s important to know just where they stand on this monumental issue. Here are some more candidate’s stances on the Green New Deal.
Biden has been a long-time advocate for the fight against climate change, introducing the Global Climate Protection Act in 1986. Among other things, it asked for yearly reports to Congress on the climate, and for the creation of a national policy on climate change. Biden, if elected, will also re-enter the Paris Agreement on his first day in office and convene a new international climate summit within 100 days of office. Biden’s approach to climate change balances goals for both domestic and international regulations on climate change. He’ll support the Green New Deal, make the largest-ever investment in clean energy, and help communities recover from the extreme impacts of climate change. At the same time, Biden will work with other nations to limit their own emissions and build better global climate change policies.
Cory Booker was one of the first democratic candidates to voice a commitment to a Green New Deal. Booker’s plan for climate change is one of the harshest against polluters out of any of the candidates. His plan calls to immediately ban any new leases to fossil fuel companies, undo executive orders approving the Keystone Pipeline, to replace any water infrastructure or housing units that expose people to a risk of lead poisoning, and to hold corporations legally responsible for polluting communities. On an individual level, Booker has demonstrated his strong commitment to the environment by becoming a vegetarian in order to lessen his personal environmental impact.
In his home city of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg has already made some big changes during his time as mayor. He initiated South Bend’s Office of Sustainability, building free charging stations for electric vehicles, and hopes to improve energy efficiency within low-income communities. He’s also no stranger to the impacts of climate change, having seen two historic floods hit Indiana while he’s been mayor. Unsurprisingly, a big piece of his climate plan is creating immediate safety measures against climate events for communities across America, much as he’s worked to do in South Bend. Buttigieg not only supports a Green New Deal, but hopes to convene world leaders for a climate summit in Pittsburgh within his first 100 days in office. Perhaps the most unique part of his plan is how he intends to alleviate its financial burden. He hopes to do this by introducing new climate bonds for citizens to purchase.
While Kamala Harris supports a Green New Deal and hopes to make the United States carbon neutral electricity by 2030, her stances on certain riskier forms of energy, like fracking and nuclear energy, still remain somewhat ambiguous. In spite of that, she seems committed to embracing environmental justice, even working with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to draft the Climate Equity Act. She plans to introduce a climate pollution fee which would funnel its revenues into the communities these polluters impact. Harris also identifies increasing protection of and access to nature as a key part of her plan, aiming to increase protection for almost a third of the country’s land by the year 2030.
Like Harris, Julián Castro supports a Green New Deal, but raises some concerns for many voters when it comes to energy sources like fracking. While mayor of San Antonio, Castro oversaw an increase in fracking operations in his community. He acknowledges having safety concerns, but instead chose to focus on the economic opportunities it provided for his community and hailed it as “an important component of our energy future” which makes his 2020 platform of “People & Planet First” a little less credible. To his credit though, during his mayorship he also worked to make sure San Antonio phased out coal in favor of renewable energy by 2020, and as Housing secretary he ran a grant program to increase community resilience to climate events. Castro’s 2020 climate plan uniquely aims to create a new refugee category of “climate refugees,” and focuses on not only transitioning to better environmental policies but also creating recourse for those who have already faced the impacts of climate injustice.
While it's encouraging to see that so many politicians across the country are finally giving serious attention to climate change, this is only a start. It's important that citizens don't stop being engaged. The only way we can expect a Green New Deal - or any attempt to curb climate change - to happen is if we, the voters, continue to demand it. Now more than ever, it's important to vote, volunteer, protest, or get involved with politics however you can. Our planet is in an unsustainable state, and it’s up to us to protect it while we still can.