Julián Castro lays out plans for fighting climate change and addressing climate justice

Photo of Julián Castro lays out plans for fighting climate change and addressing climate justice
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CNN’s whopping seven-hour presidential town hall on the climate crisis kicked off with Julián Castro on Wednesday. Wolf Blitzer didn’t waste a moment before hitting the former HUD Secretary with his first question: What would be your first step to address the climate crisis?Castro eased into his answer, being sure to thank former candidate, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, for his tireless insistence on a climate debate, as well as activists like the Sunrise Movement, for making the town hall happen.

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Julian Castro opens his #ClimateTownHall by shouting out Jay Inslee, who made combatting climate change central to his now failed bid.

— Dan Merica (@merica) September 4, 2019

Notably, Sunrise and United We Dream had just praised Castro’s just-released plan, which calls for aid to "climate refugees."

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Ahead of the @CNN's Climate Crisis Town Hall, @UNITEDWEDREAM and @sunrisemvmt release a joint statement praising @JulianCastro's People and Planet First Plan #ClimateTownHall pic.twitter.com/SheXBVGqnB

— Natalie Montelongo 🐺 (@natimontelongo) September 4, 2019

Like all Democrats, Castro vowed to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, but didn’t stop there.

By video, Lisa Rinaman, a St. Johns Riverkeeper, asked what Castro would do to address the growing threat of rising sea levels.

Castro noted that he’s the only candidate with executive experience. Vowing to not just increase funds available for those affected by natural disasters, but to help prevent natural disasters.

From the audience, a worker in the jewelry industry asked how Castro might hold companies accountable for activities that induce climate change. Castro vowed to inflict fees, improve standards, and then enforce those new standards by “cracking down” on corporations who violate regulations. Blitzer followed up by asking who Castro thinks those “corporate polluters” are, and how he would go after them. Castro avoided calling out any companies by name, but vowed to improve and empower the EPA by appointing people who might actually enforce them.

John Ingram, an environmental activist, asked if was fair to ask younger people to continue to have families with the chaotic climate future we’ve created for them. Castro focused on the economic boon that acting against climate change might present, and the potential to provide for families that those opportunities can provide.

Next up, high schooler and soon to be first-time voter Sila Inanoglu, of the Sunrise Movement, called Castro out for embracing fracking while mayor of San Antonio, and asking why anyone should trust him to take action on renewable energy. Castro owned this, saying that we’re at the end of a long journey toward wind, solar, and such.

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In 95 out of 99 counties in Iowa, wind is the cheapest energy source. In the other 4 counties, it's solar.The transition to a green economy is already underway. We need to accelerate it to meet the urgency the climate crisis demands.#ClimateTownHall

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) September 4, 2019

He did refuse to outright ban fracking, but repeated his vow to get to zero-emissions by 2045.

After a commercial break, a registered nurse from New York, asked Castro about environmental racism, which leaves low-income communities to bear the brunt of polluting business practices.

Castro told a story of visiting Puerto Rico and meeting an elderly man who was repainting his home after Hurricane Maria, and rambled his way to Flint, Mich. before finding his way back to his talking point: His plan addresses environmental justice and allows for recourse when communities face a disparate amount of damage from companies destroying the planet.

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“Often times the poorest communities and communities of color are the people who are hit first on the climate crisis.”—@JulianCastro on the need for environmental justice at the #ClimateTownHall

— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) September 4, 2019

He also vowed to invest in those communities and equip those most hurt by environmental injustice to fight back, apparently through lawsuits.

Next up, CNN’s chief climate correspondent Bill Weir presented beautiful imagery of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, which Donald Trump wants to open up to logging. Weir’s question: Where does the land come from in Castro’s plan to protect wildlife?Castro nailed this one, vowing to re-preserve lands Trump has stopped protecting, and seek out more places to protect. After a re-direct from Blitzer, Castro also vowed to ban fracking on national lands.

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YES! Castro say he'll prohbit the leasing of our public lands! Brings up protecing Bears Ears & seeking other lands to protect under National Monument status!That is awesome!#ClimateTownHall #GreenNewDeal

— Leftward Swing 🌹🌻 (@LeftwardSwing) September 4, 2019

Dr. Kathleen Nolan, a potent voice in the environmental movement, asked Castro if, looking back on his career, Castro wished he’d taken a more forceful action on the environment. Castro genuinely seemed to contemplate the question, and his career, before launching into a story about wanting to stop a golf course from being built while serving on the San Antonio City Council, but not being able to due to a conflict of interest at his law firm and wanting to maintain his livelihood. The story has a somewhat happy ending, of course, since he claimed to quit his job and vote down the golf course in the end.

Next, Blitzer asked Castro what the biggest sacrifice he’d ask Americans to make to address the climate crisis. Honestly, Castro didn’t really answer the question before Blitzer cut him off and tossed to the audience, where young climate activist Gianna Lum asked if climate change should be taught in schools. Castro exposed the nasty practice of elected officials dictating school curriculum, even as he himself vowed to do so—for the good of the planet—should he become president.

And just like that, Castro was done. Now up: Andrew Yang.

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