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Midterm Primaries: Clean Energy Advocates Secure Nominations

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Ilhan Omar, who could become the first Somali-American in Congress after her primary win, took the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. Lorie Shaull / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

With the Democratic National Committee's sudden reversal on fossil fuel contributions last week, environmental advocates were relieved to see a number of climate champions emerge from Tuesday's midterm primaries.

A number of high-profile winners even signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge—an initiative of the young climate activist group Sunrise Movement—which demands politicians and their campaigns to not accept contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives or front groups of oil, gas or coal companies.


Here are some of the signatories who won last night:

  • Ilhan Omar, who is poised to be one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress after winning the Democratic primary in Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District;
  • Randy "IronStache" Bryce, who is seeking to fill House Speaker Paul Ryan's Wisconsin district seat;
  • Vermont Democrat Christine Hallquist, a former energy company executive, became the first transgender candidate to be nominated for a governorship;
  • U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who won the Democratic nomination for Minnesota attorney general;
  • Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won Vermont's Democratic Senate primary.

Minnesota state Rep. Omar, who was also endorsed by the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, promises "bold action, and a transformation of our political and economic systems to combat climate change" and opposes projects such as the controversial Line 3 Replacement Pipeline.

The Sunrise Movement celebrated her groundbreaking victory.

"She's pledged to protect our land & water from pipelines like Line 3 and support a just transition to a clean energy economy, creating good-paying jobs in the process," the group tweeted about Omar's nomination. "Our country will only change for the better because of candidates like you."

The Sunrise Movement also commended Bryce's "tremendous victory" and noted that he "pledged early in his campaign to refuse contributions from fossil fuel CEOs."

The populist union ironworker touts A Green New Deal that supports policies such as a massive investment in green infrastructure, a path to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and ending fossil fuel subsidies.

Hallquist, as the former CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative for 13 years, helped transform the company into a leader in using renewable sources of electricity production to combat climate change.

She also supports a plan for the state to reach a 90 percent renewable energy supply by 2050, protecting its natural environment and waterways and encourages more environmentally friendly mass transportation options.

Last night's winners are among the some 200 candidates in the November general election who have signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. The Sunrise Movement is petitioning other lawmakers to join their campaign.

Climate policy has emerged as a divisive issue between the Democratic Party's progressive wing, which is urging a speedy transition to 100 percent renewable energy, versus those in the party who are sympathetic to labor groups.

Two months after the Democratic National Committee unanimously prohibited donations from fossil fuel companies, the committee voted 30-2 on Friday on a resolution that critics say effectively reverses the ban.

The resolution, introduced by DNC Chair Tom Perez, allows the committee to accept donations from "workers, including those in energy and related industries, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates individually or through their unions' or employers' political action committees" or PACs.

After the vote, Perez said that members of the labor community considered the original resolution passed in June "an attack on the working people in these industries," per The Hill.

He insisted that the DNC is still committed to the Democratic Party platform, "which states unequivocally our support for combating climate change."

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That's the conclusion of a new study from think tank Autonomy, which found that Germany, the UK and Sweden all needed to drastically reduce their workweeks to fight climate change.

"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."

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"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."

Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.

"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."

Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.

"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."

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