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At the town hall, the Sunrise Movement launched the next phase of their Green New Deal campaign: making three demands of Democratic presidential contenders

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ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We do not have to be scared by demanding a living wage, by demanding health care for all people, as we transition to an economy that is decarbonized, sustainable, and just for every American.

DHARNA NOOR: It’s The Real News. I’m Dharna Noor. As former vice president and leading Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden says he seeks a “middle ground” climate policy, organizers are demanding candidates back a transformative climate plan. Underscoring the public support for action on climate change, on Monday 1,500 people rallied in Washington DC, organized by the youth-led climate group the Sunrise Movement.

VARSHINI PRAKASH: [Singing] We gonna rise up, rise up till it’s won.

DHARNA NOOR: Speakers included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Are we ready to take back our future and take back our lives? Because that is what this fight is all about.

DHARNA NOOR: Independent senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

BERNIE SANDERS: The United States must lead the world with a global approach which emphasizes the Green New Deal.

DHARNA NOOR: Author and environmental activist Naomi Klein.

NAOMI KLEIN: We need to transform from the gig and dig economy to a culture and society, an economy, that is built on care and repair.

DHARNA NOOR: And other policy writers, electeds, and activists. They introduced the next phase of the campaign for a Green New Deal. In the leadup to the 2020 election, Sunrise is demanding three things from each Democratic presidential contender.

VARSHINI PRAKASH: Number one is to stop taking oil and gas money through this thing called the no fossil fuel money pledge. You can go to to actually figure out how you can pressure your candidates, your politicians, to do that. They should make the Green New Deal a day one priority if they are elected to be the president of the United States of America. And they should call, both on social media and otherwise, for a climate debate so we can see where the different candidates are on these issues.

DHARNA NOOR: On July 30, candidates are set to head to Detroit for the second Democratic primary debate. That’s when Sunrise will hold a people’s debate near the official location and challenge every single candidate to meet with their movement face to face.

VARSHINI PRAKASH: This will be the largest action our movement has organized to date for the Green New Deal.

DHARNA NOOR: The Green New Deal is a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero within a decade, create millions of jobs, and fund social programs like Medicare for All.

RHIANA GUNN-WRIGHT: If you are talking about climate and climate alone, you’re doing it wrong. And if your plan can be executed by just the DOE, you’re doing it wrong.

DHARNA NOOR: Twelve Democratic candidates, including Senator Sanders, have already signed on to the no fossil fuel pledge. But Biden, who Sludge reported has an informal climate adviser who earned a million dollars from the liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy, isn’t one of them.

JEREMIAH LOWERY: There will be pushback from corporate interests and even politicians who tell you they want to water down your bills to seek a middle ground with corporate lobbyists. Boo.

BERNIE SANDERS: They are making billions and billions of dollars in profit every year. And then they deny what carbon emissions are doing to our planet.

DHARNA NOOR: The rally, held at Howard University, was the last in the Sunrise Movement’s month-long Road to a Green New Deal tour of 250 town halls across the nation.

VARSHINI PRAKASH: Everywhere from Iowa, to Michigan, to California, Louisiana, Kentucky, and now in DC.

DHARNA NOOR: Policy writer Rhiana Gunn-Wright says a federal Green New Deal must learn from and help fund projects that are working on a local level.

RHIANA GUNN-WRIGHT: The local level, they’re the ones who have been leading on this. So I think actually the question is how do you support that movement, and how do you learn what has worked, and how do you scale it up?

DHARNA NOOR: The event came exactly six months after sunrise and AOC held a protest in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office demanding she support the Green New Deal. Since then the movement has grown exponentially.

VARSHINI PRAKASH: We have grown from 20 local chapters to over 200. We’ve seen climate being a niche conversation in our nation’s politics to becoming the number one most important issue to Democratic voters, going into the 2020 elections. We’re seeing 100 co-sponsors in the Senate and House on a Green New Deal resolution. The tide is turning. And now we’ve got to keep pushing, especially as we get into these presidential debates.

DHARNA NOOR: And Sunrise says the time to act is now. On May 11, CO2 emissions exceeded 415 parts per million, that’s the highest level on record, for the first time in history.

VARSHINI PRAKASH: If you listen to any of the thousands and thousands of scientists who have been studying this issue and sounding the alarm for the last 40 years, it’s clear there is no “middle ground” when it comes to climate change. Having high ambition on this issue will mean life and death for millions of people.

DHARNA NOOR: But they say they still have hope for the future.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Our history may be written but our future is not. And we have every possibility in the world to change it.

DHARNA NOOR: For The Real News, with Taylor Hebden, I’m Dharna Noor.

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Dharna Noor is a staff writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate vertical.