Dem platform committee probes way forward on climate issues

Dem platform committee probes way forward on climate issues
© Greg Nash

Nearly two dozen green activists and experts pushed members of the Democratic platform committee on Friday to adopt strong environmental policies in the platform set to be released this summer. 

Committee members pressed the experts on how far they should go to address climate change in their platform: they seemed supportive of instituting a carbon tax and working to move beyond fossil fuels, saying the matter will be good politics in November’s elections. 

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Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the committee, asked professor and author Michael Mann, about Republican opposition to American climate work. 

“One of the arguments we hear in Washington is that it isn’t going to make any difference,” he said of U.S. efforts to reduce carbon emissions while other countries see theirs grow. “They say what we do here may not have tremendous impact.”

Mann responded that the Paris climate agreement, a global accord reached in December to cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, is a good first step to stopping the worst of climate change. 

But, he said, “if we are to build on that agreement, rather than move backwards, we obviously will need a president and a Congress that embraces the objective of avoiding dangerous climate change.”

Beyond traditional environmentalist calls to address climate change and support clean air and water, using climate matters to attract new voters was a key topic for committee members. 

Cummings and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) noted climate issues are important ones for young voters, who, Lee said, “I want to be a part of the Democratic Party."

“The next president will need a Congress” that supports work on climate change, said Carol Browner, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator appointed to the platform committee by presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton: FBI investigation into Kavanaugh could be done quickly Hillary Clinton urges Americans to 'check and reject' Trump's 'authoritarian tendencies' by voting in midterms EXCLUSIVE: Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency MORE

“We cannot continue to elect climate deniers to the Senate.”

The committee heard testifying on hydraulic fracturing, which could end up being a major sticking point for the Clinton and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren joins Sanders in support of striking McDonald's workers Kavanaugh allegations could be monster storm brewing for midterm elections      Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE officials on the panel. 

That division — centering on the question of how to crack down on fracking and how quickly to transition away from fossil fuels — was evident occasionally during the testimony. 

Early in the meeting, Bill McKibben, a Sanders appointee, activist and founder of climate group 350.org, highlighted a push to keep up 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves in the ground to prevent future global warming. 

Browner, meanwhile, questioned anti-fracking activist and director Josh Fox what he would consider a “reasonable transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy. 

Testifiers, though, indicated any environmental issues in the Democratic platform will be better than those put forward by Republicans. 

“While walking different paths, each of our candidates share a goal of 100 percent clean energy,” said actor Mark Ruffalo, who had backed Sanders’ candidacy. 

“Unlike others running for president, we will not turn away from each other. We will work together to take on these tough problems.”