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Biden Names Ocasio-Cortez, Kerry to Co-Chair Climate Task Force

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Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden took a major step last week toward unifying his party for the fall election, appointing Green New Deal architect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and former secretary of state John Kerry to co-chair what one analyst called “the Climate Dream Team of Democrats”.

With the announcement of his climate task force last Wednesday, Biden “is making a clear bid to bridge the divides in his own party that threaten his candidacy and the long-term fight for action on global warming,” InsideClimate News reports [1].

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“With task force members from Michigan and Florida, Biden named representatives from key swing states while acknowledging the need for a climate policy broad enough to help communities navigating economic transition and coping with sea level rise,” InsideClimate adds. “The team likewise reflects a wide-angle view of environmental justice, with members who can speak to the disproportionate climate impacts in rural farm counties and urban neighbourhoods.”

The Dream Team was one of six policy task forces Biden set up along with former primary rival Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to build his party’s platform for the U.S. election November 3.

“A united party is key to defeating Donald Trump this November and moving our country forward through an unprecedented crisis,” Biden said in a published statement. “From health care to reforming our justice system to rebuilding a more inclusive and fair economy, the work of the task forces will be essential to identifying ways to build on our progress and not simply turn the clock back to a time before Donald Trump, but transform our country.”

Sanders “commended Biden in his own statement for seeking out ‘the best ideas’ and ‘working together with my campaign to assemble a group of leading thinkers and activists who can and will unify our party in a transformational and progressive direction’,” CNN writes [3]

“Two sources familiar with the discussions told CNN that former President Barack Obama had been involved in the initial discussions about forming the task forces,” the TV network adds. “A former top Sanders aide praised Biden’s team for its cooperation and said it did not reject any of the Sanders camp’s recommendations. In turn, the source said, the Sanders team chose its representatives carefully—steering clear of ‘bomb throwers’ and focusing on experts, activists, and lawmakers, like Ocasio-Cortez, with a sincere interest in collaboration.”

Washington-based environment consultant Jeremy Symons, who came up with the Dream Team label, said it was particularly important for Biden to heal divisions among Democrats in light of the coronavirus pandemic. “With our health and welfare at risk like never before, there is no better group to pull the climate movement together and unify to bring about the urgent change we need,” he told InsideClimate.

The climate task force includes Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash, whose organization endorsed Sanders in the primary, InsideClimate writes.

“While this is a step in the right direction, and a clear sign of how far our movement has come, what is achieved by this task force is much less important than what we do as a movement in the coming months,” she said. “We must keep building our movement and raising our voices loudly for a Green New Deal until we win it. The work has just begun.”

Other organizations associated with the progressive wing of the climate community said they would expect the Democrats to hold fossils liable for the climate impact of their products. “To succeed, this task force must hold fossil fuel corporations accountable for misleading the public and prepare the next president to demonstrate real climate ambition that invests in communities already impacted by the climate crisis, as well as the next generation,” said 350 Action North America Director Tamara Toles O’Laughlin.

Former Bill Clinton climate advisor Paul Bledsoe said the climate task force should keep its focus on job creation. “This is a strong group, but given that 34 million Americans have lost their jobs in two months, Biden should also appoint a labour union official with experience in job-creating clean energy infrastructure,” he told InsideClimate. “As Republicans are stalling infrastructure stimulus in Washington, Biden should make a job-focused clean energy infrastructure plan a key campaign issue now and in the fall.”

The other climate task force members include Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), chair of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis [4], Detroit-based public-private partnership specialist Kerry Duggan, Catherine Flowers, founder of the Alabama-based Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council President and CEO Gina McCarthy, and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA), sponsor of a recent bill on environmental justice.

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