In a video that emerged online of a congressional hearing focused on the bill on Wednesday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez said the legislation she introduced with Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts would begin to fix some of the economic ills in the American economy, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, but have existed for over a generation.
“I think one thing that’s really important as well is that in the Civilian Climate Core bill that Senator Markey and I have introduced there is no age limit to participation,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said in her opening testimony to the hearing.
The Civilian Climate Core Bill was introduced back in April. The inspiration for the bill comes from a similar initiative from Franklin D Roosevelt’s landmark New Deal package, and it seeks to create a variety of public sector jobs to tackle the climate crisis via the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture.
The progressive representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District highlighted that the bill “represents” and is “reflective” of the wider economic situation millennials and other younger people find themselves in.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez added: “I think this is incredibly important because it represents the economy, it’s reflective of the economy that we are now growing up into, especially during the pandemic people have fallen out of unemployment, into long-term unemployment.”
She advocated for government assistance to “get people ramped back into the economy again”.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez, 31, recalled that the last time people her age saw a healthy economy was when they were children in the 1990s, detailing that her generation, millennials, came of age during global conflict in the Middle East and how in a society that promised college would “create economic opportunity for you” despite the high costs and debt many students have to take on.
She said fixing climate crisis could provide a platform to solve other societal issues, such as the lack of affordable housing and well paying jobs, and the way to do this was by “being one of the most unionised workforces and unionised generations in American history”.
“It’s how we take our future back into our hands,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said, emphasising that this action was not “volunteer work.”
She urged not to wait until corporations act, saying it was vital for the government to get involved, despite it not being profitable, because it was essential.
“I think this investment in a climate accord is so crucially important,” she said.
She also spoke out against using prison labour to fight symptoms of the climate crisis, like using inmates to put out the California wildfires, emphasising how wrong it was and calling deploying incarcerated people “slave labour”.