Senator and presidential-hopeful Kamala Harris and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have partnered to propose a bill that would target communities that are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The Climate Equity Act would “ensure that the United States government makes communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis the foundation of policy related to climate and the environment.”
“At its core, a Green New Deal must be based on three principles,” said Harris in a statement. “First, fighting climate change by ending the use of fossil fuels; second, building a clean economy with good jobs of the 21st century, and third, ensuring that no community gets left behind.”
The proposed plan calls for the establishment of an independent Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability. It would require that congressional climate and environmental legislation be given a rating, or ‘equity score’ based upon its benefits and costs to frontline communities. and require additional review for “climate equity” in federal regulations.
Federal grants and investment programs would also have to undergo a review to make sure that frontline communities would benefit under the proposed legislation.
Harris defines these at-risk, or “frontline”, communities as “those that have experienced systemic socioeconomic disparities, environmental racism, and other forms of injustice, including low-income communities, indigenous peoples, and communities of color” as well as “deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, vulnerable elderly populations, unhoused populations, and people with disabilities.”
Many of the other Democratic presidential candidates have singled out communities that are being disproportionately affected by climate change in their plans as well.
Vice President Joe Biden has said “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.”
Elizabeth Warren’s plan states that “climate change is exacerbating inequality and injustice at home and abroad.” Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s plan is titled “Community Climate Justice” and heavily focuses on the connection between climate change and economic inequality. Bernie Sanders has repeatedly linked the two, stating that “Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is a racial justice issue.”
“Climate change represents not only the greatest threat to our species, but one of our greatest economic opportunities,” said Ocasio-Cortez in a statement. “The Climate Equity Act ensures that as we go forward to solve our climate crisis, we are focusing on communities most impacted by the crisis and the transition to renewable energy.”
Community leaders will able to provide feedback on the proposal prior to its formal introduction this fall.