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Environment

Sunrise Movement Pushes Joe Biden To Get Greener On Climate Change

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about climate change and the wildfires on the West Coast at the Delaware Museum of Natural History on Sept. 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about climate change and the wildfires on the West Coast at the Delaware Museum of Natural History on Sept. 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The youth-led environmental group known as the Sunrise Movement gave Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s climate plan an “F” during the Democratic primaries. 

Since then, the group has been advising the Biden campaignand pushing him further left on the issue, which could be key for many young voters in this election.

Biden originally called for decarbonizing the electric grid by 2050, but he has moved that goal forward to 2035. He is also raising his investments into clean energy to $2 trillion over four years with 40% of those funds going to frontline communities, saysAracely Jimenez-Hudis, deputy communications director for the Sunrise Movement, which claims more than 10,000 members.

While Jimenez-Hudis applauds those changes to Biden’s climate plan, she says the government could always invest more money into combating climate change. 

“We’ve seen just in the past month how absolutely devastating the fires out west have been, hurricanes, storms, floods that have hit the Gulf, South and other areas of the country,” she says. “It’s really only going to get worse, and so climate plans really need to be as ambitious as possible.”

Biden is going to need the votes of young people to win in November.Jimenez-Hudisis calling on Biden to give more speecheslike the one he delivered in Delaware last week, where he outlined a plan for restructuring the economy to address climate change. 

“We definitely need to hear more of that to make sure that young people actually deliver a landslide victory in the next few weeks,”Jimenez-Hudissays. “Every poll across the board shows that climate is the swing issue this election, which means with the eyes of the nation on him, Biden has the opportunity to speak to key voters, to speak to young people and put Trump on his back foot on his weakest issue of climate.” 

If climate change does come up at the presidential debates, President Trump is likely to say that Biden’s policy will destroy the American economy, which is going to resonate with a lot of people, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. The American Petroleum Institute arguesBiden’s plan to boost renewable energy will speed up the loss of union jobs.

Jimenez-Hudissays it’s the debate moderators’ responsibility to not “let Trump off the hook.” 

“[Fox News anchor Chris Wallace] has released the first presidential debate topics and climate was nowhere to be seen,” she says. “The moderators really have a responsibility to inform the public and make sure that the presidential debates are covering these swing issues.”

Climate change is likely absent from the listof first debate topics because the issue has never ranked high on the minds of American voters.Jimenez-Hudisblames this on the power of the fossil fuel industry.

“Their master class in sowing doubt and denial over the past decade, since before I was even born, has really influenced the political establishment and the political elite of this country,” she says. 

Thanks to “incredible champions” like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Ed Markey and others who have run on making climate change a priority,Jimenez-Hudissays young people have rallied around the issue.

“Now we’re seeing that we have actual grassroots champions who are willing to go to bat for working people, talking about the intersections between climate, the COVID crisis and the economy,” she says. “And that’s why we’re seeing this surge, because we finally have that inside power and we can finally have voices that are being heard across this country making those key connections.


Chris Bentley produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.