The Sunrise Movement, the youth climate activist organization that has been one of the driving forces behind the Green New Deal, held a packed event on Monday night at Howard University to discuss what it will take to make the GND into law. At the event, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who has been a key figurehead of the movement—and Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about the necessity of taking dramatic action on climate and incorporating economic concerns into environmental policy.
In her speech, Ocasio-Cortez was fired up and angry, slamming politicians who want to find a “middle way” to deal with what she described as an existential threat to life on Earth.
“They say calling for a Green New Deal is ‘too much,’” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Let me tell you what’s too much for me. What’s too much for me is politicians looking and allowing babies’ blood to get poisoned in Flint, Mich. for corporate profits. What’s too much for for me, is coal barons coming up to Washington, D.C. and demanding bailout after tax breaks after bailout [for] themselves and then not even paying their own miners’ pensions.”
AOC reminded the crowd that in 1989, the year she was born, Congress was first warned by NASA about the potential dangers of climate change.
“They did nothing... I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need a middle of the road approach to save our lives,” she added.
Sanders, in his speech, discussed how corrupt campaign finance systems have allowed the power of fossil fuel companies to persist and said that there would be a reckoning.
“These companies lied to the American people about the very existence of climate change and committed one of the greatest frauds in the history of our country,” Sanders told the crowd. “Just as the tobacco industry was ultimately forced to pay for the fraud they committed, the fossil fuel industry must be forced to do the same.”
Sanders and AOC didn’t hold back in their critiques of centrist climate policy on both sides of the aisle.
“I’m not here to tell you that all Democrats are good and all Republicans are bad and if you simply elect someone with a ‘D’ next to their name that our problems are solved,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
AOC specifically called out the “middle ground” climate plan proposed by presidential candidate Joe Biden, which was reported last week. Both Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders have criticized the plan on Twitter.
Biden’s campaign says his plan would focus on creating new technologies and regulations that will limit greenhouse gas emissions rather than fully transitioning to green energy, according to The Hill.
“As president, Biden would enact a bold policy to tackle climate change in a meaningful and lasting way, and will be discussing the specifics of that plan in the near future,” Biden spokesman T.J. Ducklo told The Hill. “Any assertions otherwise are not accurate.”
Biden is currently polling well above Sanders among 2020 voters, in some cases by more than 30 points.
The Senate has already voted on one version of the Green New Deal, though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has admitted the vote was a political stunt meant to shoot the plan down.
But McConnell has also warned his constituents that AOC and her peers mean business.
“Now, my friends, we’re having a legitimate debate about the virtues of socialism,” he told constituents recently. “And I don’t want you to think this is just a 28-year-old congresswoman from New York. This is much broader than that.”