Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden recently named Kamala Harris as his running mate prompting Sierra Club President, Ramon Cruz Diaz to say the VP pick, “cements” the Democratic ticket as “the strongest ever for proposed climate action.” Harris is the first black woman and first person of Indian descent to be nominated for vice president by a major party. Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America Director of 350 Action, said, “Harris has demonstrated a solid understanding of the scale of the climate crisis”.
Harris has proposed investing a trillion dollars a year for the next ten years to cut emissions. Former VP and climate champion Al Gore called Harris, “an extraordinary
running mate”, and added, “Kamala has made climate and environmental justice a top priority in her career in public service, and I know she will continue to be a strong advocate in the White House”.
Harris’ relentless struggle against environmental impacts that disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color define her work as both a prosecutor and a senator. When she was a District Attorney in San Francisco she created an environmental justice unit to tackle environmental crimes impacting low-income residents. “Crimes against the environment are crimes against communities, people who are often poor and disenfranchised,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005.
As a senator Harris introduced a companion bill to the Environmental Justice for All Act and 2 versions of the Climate Equity Act. The former would require the government to assess the impacts of environmental legislation on low-income communities and the latter mandates the government consider low-income and communities of color in federal permitting and decision making. Harris is also fighting a Supreme Court ruling that prevents victims of environmental pollution from suing under the Civil Rights Act. “Justice and equity must be at the forefront of combating the climate crisis,” Harris tweeted. When she was running for the Democratic presidential nomination she prioritized environmental justice in her climate plan and she signed a pledge in which she promised to decline money from oil and gas companies.
Harris supports a ban on fracking, an end to fossil fuel subsidies and an extraction moratorium on public lands. In her capacity as attorney general she has exhibited her ability to hold corporations legally accountable for environmental damage. She participated in an investigation of reports that show ExxonMobil’s knew that fossil fuels cause climate change. She forced Chevron to pay for its pollution in a landmark settlement and in 2015 she charged pipeline operators for a spill in which tens of thousands of tonnes of crude oil contaminated California’s coastline. In 2016 she won an $86 million settlement from Volkswagen in the wake of the company’s fraudulent emissions claims.
“Her stance on polluter accountability and stopping handouts to the fossil fuel industry are at the top of the list for the climate voter. Harris’ recent Climate Equity Bill demonstrates her willingness to tackle environmental and racial injustice head on and we applaud her prioritization of communities most impacted by the climate crisis,”O’Laughlin said.
Harris is a cosponsor of the Green New Deal resolution which despite being dismissed by Trump and the GOP has had a surge in popularity since the COVID-19 outbreak. Harris has chided the ruling administration for its anti-science policy orientation, saying, “we’re not gonna buy the lie. We’re gonna act, based on science fact, not science fiction”.