Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are among a trio of lawmakers that will introduce a resolution declaring a climate emergency on Tuesday, and one way Democrats may seek to initiate change is by suing energy companies.
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While discussing what actions could be taken to rein in the fossil fuel industry, Ocasio-Cortez called climate liability lawsuits – which are brought against energy companies for climate-related problems – a “fascinating tool” during a press call with reporters.
Ocasio-Cortez remained largely mum on other actionable steps that could be taken, instead adding that there are a lot “of exciting avenues,” including exploring the option of public banks as an alternative to Wall Street, in what would seem to be an effort to reduce contributions to the fossil fuel industry.
Sanders added that what actions are specifically taken will be an ongoing discussion.
According to a draft of the resolution, the climate emergency “demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.”
The pair of lawmakers, along with Democratic Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, said concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased 40 percent since preindustrial times and climate-related natural disasters – like drought, wildfire and storms – have increased “exponentially over the past decade.”
Ocasio-Cortez is one of the primary forces behind the push for a Green New Deal, which is sweeping legislation that aims to bring greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. The proposal is also focused on the idea that the economy can produce millions of high-paying jobs by investing in climate-friendly initiatives.
The proposal has been met with skepticism from more moderate members of the Democratic Party, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, limiting its chances of passing the Democratic-controlled House.
However, the trio of lawmakers on Tuesday said the climate emergency declaration is a first step toward advancing the Green New Deal.
In a speech on Monday, President Trump cited reports that the Green New Deal could cost the U.S. $100 trillion, which he said was “not affordable even in the best of times.” In contrast, he noted the White House was focused on more practical solutions.
At a press conference at the White House on Monday, Trump sought to dismiss claims that a “vibrant energy sector” and strong economy were “incompatible” with a healthy environment.
“We’re proving the exact opposite,” he said. “A strong economy is vital to maintaining a healthy environment. When we innovate, produce and grow, we're able to unleash technologies and processes that make the environment better.”
Trump added that from “day one” his administration has made it a priority to ensure that America has among the cleanest air and water in the world.
Democrats have criticized the administration for some members’ perceived failure to acknowledge climate change, and its decision to roll back some protections governing things like carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants.
Last month, for example, Trump reversed course on Obama-era restrictions on coal-fired power plants.
Trump also pulled out of the Paris climate accord during his first year in office.