Vice President Kamala Harris Calls for Addressing Hurricane Relief ‘Based on Equity’

Melanie Arter | October 3, 2022 | 1:39pm EDT
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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the Phoenix Awards Dinner at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC on October 1, 2022. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the Phoenix Awards Dinner at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC on October 1, 2022. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Vice President Kamala Harris suggested Friday that hurricane relief aid should be given “based on equity,” adding that “not everyone starts out at the same place” and that should be taken into account.

“And so we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity understanding that we fight for equality, but we also need to fight for equity, understanding not everyone starts out at the same place, and if we want people to be in an equal place, sometimes we have to take into account those disparities and do that work,” Harris said during a DNC chat last week.


During a Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum on Friday, host and actress Priyanka Chopra asked the vice president, “Extreme weather conditions like this are becoming obviously more frequent and more severe, and I wanted to acknowledge the administration for passing the biggest climate legislation in history earlier this year, because it is a fact that America’s leadership sets an example to other major economies around the world, which are truly dragging their feet when it comes to doing their bid. 

“So can you talk just a little bit about the relief efforts obviously of Hurricane Ian and what the administration has been doing to address the climate crisis in the states, but – and just a little follow-up, because this is important to me – we consider the global implications of emissions, right? The poorest countries are affected the most – they contribute the least and are affected the most – so how should voters in the U.S. feel about the administration’s long-term goals when it comes to being an international influencer on this topic?” Chopra asked.

Harris began by crediting the Biden administration and Democrats with dedicating $370 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act towards addressing climate change:


I’m gonna unpack that question … So first of all, again thanks to the leadership in this room, which were part of the propelling force in the 2020 election, so that we could actually be in office, because one of the requests – dare I say demands – of this group was do something about the climate crisis, and so we were able to be elected. Thank you, everyone here, and then have $370 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act dedicated to address the climate crisis, not only because it is a crisis as evidenced as you’ve mentioned by Ian, by the wildfires happening in California, the floods, the hurricanes, but also because of America’s leadership and what it should be globally on this issue, and so that has happened, and it will propel a lot of good work.

The crisis is real, and the clock is ticking, and the urgency with which we must act is without any question, and the way that we think of it, and the way I think of it is both in terms of the human toll, and I know we are all thinking of the families in Florida in Puerto Rico with Fiona and what we need to do to help them in terms of immediate response and aid but also what we need to do to help restore communities and build communities back up in a way that they can be resilient, not to mention adapt to these extreme weather conditions, which are part of the future.

On the point that you made about disparities … back when I was district attorney of San Francisco – I was elected in 2003 – I started one of the first environmental justice units of any DA’s office in the country that focused on this issue, and in particular, the disparities as you have described rightly, which is that it is our lowest-income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making.

And so we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity understanding that we fight for equality, but we also need to fight for equity, understanding not everyone starts out at the same place, and if we want people to be in an equal place, sometimes we have to take into account those disparities and do that work.

But also I will say as a former prosecutor, part of this issue also has to be about enforcement and where appropriate making sure that the bad actors pay a price for what they do that is directly harming communities in terms of their health and well-being. So when we think about policy then, there are many aspects to it, including something that the president and our administration and I are very excited about, which is the opportunity that moving towards a clean energy environment and industry what it will do in terms of job creation and building up our economy. It’s tremendous. 

So there are many benefits to this work and to your point about the global piece, among the leaders I have been meeting and convening, just recently in fact, and now this was I think the third time I convened the presidents and prime ministers of the Caribbean countries. There’s an organization called CARECOM, and I convened them just a couple weeks ago, and the consistent discussion we are having is exactly your point, which is we are one of the greatest emitters in the world, and the Caribbean countries for example are paying the biggest price. 

They are some of the lowest emitters. Yet, the erosion that they are experiencing to their island nations is profound, and when you combine that with the fact that nations like that, their biggest source for their GDP is tourism, and what the climate crisis and extreme weather conditions do in terms of plummeting their incoming resources, not to mention what we are expecting all good nations to do to contribute to mitigation and adaptation. 

So there is still a lot of work to be done to recognize their equities, and I will say for us as the United States to own responsibility for what we should rightly should do to recognize these disparities and contribute in a way that is fair with the goal of equitable priorities.

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