What Will Harris’s Nomination Mean for the Environment?
She’s been outspoken on climate and EJ issues, but her core interests may be elsewhere.
Kamala Harris has taken some strong positions on climate change and environmental justice. Her nomination signals the extent to which the Democratic party now embraces those issues. However, to the extent one can judge from her public record, her highest priority interests have been elsewhere during her time in the Senate.
While campaigning for the presidential nomination, she released a very ambitious $10 trillion climate plan. It called for a carbon neutral economy by 2045 and a carbon neutral grid by 2030. The plan required that all new buses, heavy-duty vehicles and vehicle fleets be zero-emission by 2030, and that all other new vehicles hit that target by 2035.
Just a few days ago, she and AOC jointly released a climate and environmental justice bill. One part of the bill would require that all legislation be scored on those dimensions before it could reach the floor for a vote. Another part would require that administrative agencies assess the climate and environmental justice impacts of proposed rules, and it would make those assessments judicially reviewable.
In terms of her Senate service, she has had a solidly pro-environmental record, but her lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters is somewhat below the average Democratic Senator’s. (To be fair, her average may have been pulled down by missed votes while she was campaigning for the nomination.) Her committee assignments are Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Budget. She’s not on Environment and Public Works or Energy and Natural Resources (though of course, as a junior Senator, she may not have had first pick of committees).
Clearly, Harris shares the pro-environmental orientation of Democrats as a group, and she now clearly sees climate change as a key issue. She would obviously support strong climate action, possibly even stronger action than Biden. At least in the past, however, it didn’t seem to be a personal passion for her — as contrasted, say, with Jay Inslee.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about her environmental views as the campaign progresses, both in her public statements and in stories about her earlier work. In the end, of course, it will be Biden’s views that will matter most to the electorate and that will have the most policy impact if the Democrats win.