Harris, AOC partnering on climate-justice bill

Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez disclosed a proposed bill Monday that seeks to protect low-income communities from the dangers posed by climate change.

Titled the Climate Equity Act, the plan would establish an independent Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability that would score all new environmental regulations for their impact on low-income communities.

Harris, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, announced the legislation Monday, two days before she is scheduled to appear at the party’s second primary debate this year, in Detroit.

Sen. Kamala Harris, left, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Darron Cummings/AP, Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In a statement, Harris added that “climate change is an existential threat — it’s critical we act now to achieve a cleaner, safer, and healthier future. But it is not enough to simply cut emissions and end our reliance on fossil fuels. We must ensure that communities already contending with unsafe drinking water, toxic air, and lack of economic opportunity are not left behind.”

The effects of climate change are expected to be felt hardest by the poor, who are less able to relocate or adapt to the environmental degradation posed by rising temperatures.

“One of the tenets of the Green New Deal is prioritizing vulnerable communities,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with the New York Times. “We have to talk about Flint. We have to talk about West Virginia. We have to talk about the Bronx and we have to talk about ways climate change manifests in our lives.”

Harris is not alone among the candidates for the Democratic nomination when it comes to singling out climate equity. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has made climate issues the centerpiece of his campaign.

In his own plan, former Vice President Joe Biden noted that “people of color and low-income communities are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate-change-related weather events. They are also less likely to have the funds to prepare for and recover from extreme weather.”

Biden would give those communities “preference in competitive grant programs,” his plan states.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote in her plan that “climate change is exacerbating inequality and injustice at home and abroad,” and proposed “prioritizing resources for frontline and disadvantaged communities that have been polluted and left behind by the fossil fuel economy.”

Inslee’s plan is itself titled “Community Climate Justice,” and is centered on the belief that climate change and growing economic inequality are linked.

“The facts are clear: climate change and pollution disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color, and are major contributors to ongoing economic and racial inequality,” Inslee’s plan states.

Another ardent supporter of the Green New Deal, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has similarly linked climate change to racial inequality.

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