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.
That was fast. Just two months after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) unanimously prohibited donations from fossil fuel companies, the DNC voted 30-2 on Friday on a resolution that critics say effectively reverses the ban, The Huffington Post reported.
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The Democratic and Republican conventions are history and the epochal 2016 election is now before us. My general theory is less talk and more action, so I hope you'll join me in taking this climate pledge, one that will power our efforts into the fall.
People's Climate March in New York City, Sept. 21, 2014.
But since I've got the microphone, maybe I'll say a few more words.
One is, Trump is truly bad news. His insistence that global warming is a Chinese manufactured hoax and his declaration that he will abrogate the Paris treaty mean that he's as much a nihilist on climate change as he is on anything else. In fact, no major party candidate since the start of the global warming era has been as bad on this issue, not even close. He's also terrifying for many other obvious reasons.
Second is, it was a little hard for me to watch Bernie's bittersweet speech to the Democratic convention. He's my Vermont neighbor (where 350.org was born) and he was my candidate and he talked about climate change as no presidential candidate ever has before, declaring forthrightly that it was the greatest problem the planet faced. I wish he'd won.
But his powerful showing meant, among other things, that he had a significant hand in writing the Democratic party platform for 2016. (In fact, he named me as one of 15 platform writers. Did I say we were neighbors?) And though it's far from perfect it is by far the strongest party platform on climate issues Americans have ever seen.
This is my third thought. In four years we've gone from an "all of the above" energy strategy to one that explicitly favors sun and wind over natural gas. The platform promises a Keystone-style test for all federal policy: If it makes global warming worse, it won't be built. And it calls for an emergency climate summit in the first hundred days of the new administration. All those changes are the direct result of your work, showing up to demand action over many months and years.
Thursday night Hillary Clinton pledged to enact that platform and she said "we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves."
"Accountability" is the right word. Will this platform mean anything more than words? That actually depends on you. If we vote as climate voters this fall—and if we then show up to demand that those promises are kept—this could turn out to be a ground-breaking political season. That's why we need you signed on to this pledge and lined up to get out the vote and do the other chores of an election.
But remember: election day is just one day in the political calendar. The other 364 count just as much.
Our job is not to elect a savior. Our job is to elect someone we can effectively pressure. And as tough as the work of this election will be—the real work starts on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
That's how it seems to me, anyway. There's plenty to be scared of this election season and plenty to hope for. And most of all there's plenty of work to be done.
Accepting her nomination for president on Thursday, Hillary Clinton said she is "proud" of the Paris agreement and promised to hold every country accountable to their commitments to climate action, including the U.S.
She also hit at Donald Trump for his climate denial. "I believe in science," she said with a laugh to thunderous applause from the audience. "I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs."
Clinton promised the biggest investment in "new, good paying jobs" since World War II, including jobs in clean energy and other sectors such as manufacturing and infrastructure.
"Clinton has proposed in-depth and thought-out plans to combat the climate crisis, protect our public lands and put an end to racial injustice," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said.
"She not only wants to complete America's transition to 100 percent clean energy, she recognizes the massive job growth opportunity it presents and wants to make America the global leader in the clean energy market. And Clinton opposes unfair trade deals and wants to overturn Citizens United, putting democracy back in the hands of the voters.
"Demagogue Donald Trump has sought to divide America in every possible way—including climate change. He has called it a hoax, a concept created by the Chinese, and wants to tear up the Paris Climate Agreement, among other outrageous and dangerous claims. In fact, if elected, Trump will be the only world leader who refutes the existence of climate change."
For a deeper dive:
James Cameron's Star-Studded Film Slams Donald Trump's Climate Denial
"As Americans, we face challenges head-on," presidential nominee Hillary Clinton says in a voiceover in the film that also features Republican former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a string of other celebrities and politicians.
President Obama also touched on the issue multiple times in his speech while California Gov. Jerry Brown and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley praised Clinton for her leadership on climate action and denounced Donald Trump for his climate denial.
Cameron film: Politico, Guardian, Mashable, AP, Pacific Standard, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, Variety, LA Times, The Hill, Washington Examiner, Huffington Post, Hollywood Reporter, OPB, The Atlantic, Boston Globe, Vulture
By Ryan Schleeter
Monday marked the beginning of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), where the party will—in theory—come together around what it's calling the "most progressive platform in party history." And if that platform is any indication, climate change will figure heavily in the discussion this week.
Hillary Clinton poses with a supporter at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire earlier this year.Andrew Lichtenstein / Greenpeace
The Dems have come a long way since embracing a deeply flawed "all of the above" energy strategy in 2012.
Their new platform places renewable energy at the center of economic growth and job creation. It recognizes the intersections of social and environmental justice, with specific references to the Flint water crisis and the impacts of climate change on communities of color and indigenous populations. And it empowers the Department of Justice to investigate fossil fuel companies for their role in spreading climate denial.
This places them in stark contrast to Republicans, who groaned at the mere mention of climate change at their convention last week.
This week should tell us even more about the direction the Dems are heading on climate change, including how they'll address some of the platform's shortcomings. Here's what to watch for:
1. Where Does the Party Stand on Fracking and Natural Gas?
Well, it's complicated.
Fracking has no place in the platform of a party that wants to "lead the fight against climate change around the world." By not advocating a national ban on fracking, the Dems are falling short of the action we need to avoid its catastrophic health, climate and public safety impacts.
Instead, they're shirking responsibility by stating that fracking "should not take place where states and local communities oppose it." Translation: everyday people will have to go head to head with the fossil fuel industry to keep their communities frack-free. For an indication of just how difficult that is, look at Colorado right now.
On top of tepid regulations, the party leadership's problematic history with fracking is cause for concern. Both presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential pick Tim Kaine have a long record of supporting fracking and pushing the false narrative of natural gas as a "bridge fuel."
As the Democrats try to position themselves as climate leaders, pay particular attention to how how this presumptive Democratic ticket talks about fracking or if they choose to skirt the issue.
2. Will Support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Erode?
It's a curious decision, as President Obama is the only high profile Democrat left in favor of the deal. Both Clinton and Bernie Sanders have opposed it since last year, citing concerns over how it would outsource jobs overseas.
But that's not all that the TPP would do. It also makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to export natural gas with little to no environmental review, creating economic incentive for even more fracking (see above for why that's a terrible idea).
Look to see which side of the aisle party leaders fall on this week and if there any notable changes in position, like Kaine coming out in opposition earlier this week after voting in favor earlier this year.
3. When Can We Expect Some Actual Commitments to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground?
Unlike people across the country, the Democrats have yet to fully embrace the keep it in the ground movement, but they seem to be inching closer.
Their platform would protect the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from offshore drilling, but not the Gulf of Mexico. It calls for "reform[ing] fossil fuel leasing on public lands" and "phas[ing] down extraction," but gives little detail as to what that actually means. And of course, fracking.
The Dems should listen to communities calling for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure, like those organizing against oil exploitation in the Gulf South and those protesting fossil fuel leasing in the Mountain West. And they won't have to look far for cues—thousands joined a march for clean energy and an end to the fossil fuel era in downtown Philadelphia on Sunday.
This week, keep an eye on how far progressive members of the party—like Keep It in the Ground Act authors Jeff Merkley (Senate) and Jared Huffman (House)—are able to push their more moderate colleagues on fossil fuel extraction.
And now for some perspective.
At this point, it's also worth a friendly reminder that the official Republican energy platform is literally terrible, Donald Trump thinks climate change is a "myth" (ever the ticket of nuance, his running mate Mike Pence prefers "hoax") and the GOP is the only conservative party in the world to deny the science of climate change.
That just feels relevant right now.
'Wake up, humanity! Time is running out!'
At high Noon Sunday, with temperatures heading toward 95 degrees, I'm confident I was not the only one preparing to march through the streets of downtown Philadelphia who recalled that old elementary-school story about the wig-wearing drafters of the Declaration of Independence huddled inside of Independence Hall on a sweltering July day.
"I'm thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine," presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted at 8:11 p.m. Friday.
Though the news was not a surprise, as Kaine has long been known as a likely choice, Clinton's pick stirred immediate reaction among the environmental movement. The Virginia senator supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, but was an early opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline.
350 Action Director May Boeve shared her concern of Clinton's vice presidential pick.
"Tim Kaine won't energize the climate base, so it's up to Hillary to start staking out some clearer positions," Boeve said. "Kaine was with us on Keystone XL, but against us on offshore drilling and fracking. This November, climate activists, young people, and progressives will turn up at the polls for candidates who say the magic words, 'keep it in the ground.' If Democrats want to drive turnout, it's time to come out more clearly against drilling, fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure."
On Sunday at 1 p.m., one day before the Democratic National Convention begins in Philadelphia, thousands of people will take part in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution calling for a ban on fracking. The march is organized by Americans Against Fracking and Pennsylvanians Against Fracking and backed by more than 900 organizations across all 50 states.
"Hillary Clinton's vice president and entire administration should be committed 100 percent to combating catastrophic climate change by keeping fossil fuels in the ground, supporting renewable energy and protecting our democracy from corporate influence," Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard said.
"It's clear from the polling that Secretary Clinton needs the progressive wing to vote in force if she's going to win in November, so Tim Kaine must show himself from the start that he'll use his office to be a climate champion," Leonard continued.
"He showed he could do this when he became an early opponent of the Keystone Pipeline, but Kaine's opposition to regulating fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and his support for natural gas exports and pipelines, prove he still has a long way to go. Clinton's positions on fracking may have progressed during her candidacy, but the climate movement will continue to push her and her running mate until they pledge to keep all fossil fuels in the ground."
Sierra Club's Executive Director Michael Brune feels "Secretary Clinton's selection of Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate completes the strongest environmental ticket we've ever seen." When comparing Clinton's campaign to Donald Trumps, Brune said, "The Democratic ticket is in sharp contrast to the Republican's, which features not one but two climate deniers, a first in American history. The Trump-Pence regime would be the only world leaders to hold that position. Simply put, a Trump-Pence Presidency wouldn't be the only 'TPP' that would destroy our climate."