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That Kamala Harris Even Considered Skipping CNN Forum, Say Youth Campaigners, Is 'Why We Absolutely Need' Mandatory Climate Debate

Senator's reversal comes after progressives rebuked 2020 candidate for choosing to attend high-priced fundraiser over forum focused on planetary crisis

2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa on August 12, 2019. (Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images)

2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa on August 12, 2019. (Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images)

Following intense backlash among progressives after it was reported she would attend a series of high-dollar fundraisers instead of attending a televised CNN forum focused on the planetary climate emergency, 2020 Democratic candidate Kamala Harris on Tuesday reversed course.

Sources for the campaign confirmed to the New York Times reporter Astead Wesley and others that Harris had changed her schedule so she could attend the forum.

"We were happy to change our schedule to accommodate such a critical conversation," Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams told CNN. "As Senator Harris has said, this is a climate crisis and is one of the most urgent reasons we need a new president."

Climate campaigners applauded the reversal by the U.S. Senator from California but said the fact that Harris had seen the CNN event as optional illustrates why a climate-only debate sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee is still needed this primary season.

"We're glad she listened to young people and made the right choice here. Choosing big donors over our futures is what got us into this mess. We need a leader ready to change course," said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, which has pushed hard for 2020 candidates to take strong climate positions and be a leading organization behind the demand for a #ClimateDebate

"The uncertainty over whether Senator Harris would attend goes to show why we absolutely need a standalone climate debate sponsored by the Democratic Party that every candidate feels is mandatory," added Prakash. "A climate debate would show which politicians are ready to take this crisis seriously and give millions of young people a sense of hope and possibility unlike anything we've felt in years."  

In a tweeted video on Monday, Prakash explained why she and her group of youth climate activists was so disappointed when they learned Harris was not attending:

A major meeting of the DNC meeting is set for the end of this week to determine, among other things, they will endorse a climate-focused debate. Prakash said her group plans to attend to press its case so that party members know "our generation's survival is worth more than the few minutes of soundbites we've gotten in previous debates."

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