Sunrise Movement Pushes Joe Biden To Get Greener On Climate Change

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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)

Editor’s note: This story originally said Joe Biden has called for decarbonizing the economy, or ending the use of fossil fuels, by 2035. In fact, he has called for making the economy net-zero in terms of greenhouse emissions by 2050, and making the electric sector net-zero by 2035.

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 provided climate recommendations to the Biden campaign as part of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force. Climate change could be key for many young voters in this election.

Biden has called for making the economy net zero by 2050 and the electric grid net zero by 2035. He is also raising his investments into clean energy to $2 trillion over four years with 40% of those funds benefitting frontline communities, says Aracely 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-Hudis is calling on Biden to give more speeches like 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-Hudis says. “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 argues Biden’s plan to boost renewable energy will speed up the loss of union jobs.

Jimenez-Hudis says 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 list of first debate topics because the issue has never ranked high on the minds of American voters. Jimenez-Hudis blames 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-Hudis says 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 segment aired on September 28, 2020.


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Peter O'Dowd Senior Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.


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Samantha Raphelson Associate Producer, Here & Now
Samantha Raphelson is an associate producer for Here & Now, based at NPR in Washington, D.C.



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