Democratic National Committee Considering Climate Change Debate for 2020 Presidential Candidates
Feeling increased pressure from candidates and environmental activists, the Democrat National Committee (DNC) is now considering a debate focused solely on climate change for 2020 presidential candidates, according to a report from the Washington Post.
The DNC’s 60-member executive committee met in Pittsburgh on June 29 and referred a resolution on hosting a climate debate to a separate committee, that if approved, would go the full 447-member Democratic National Committee, reports the Washington Post. The DNC would then approve or reject the resolution when it meets in San Francisco in August.
The move represents a possible reversal after weeks of definitively telling candidates there would be no climate change debate. On June 11, DNC Chairman Tom Perez wrote a Medium post outlining the reasons behind his decision, citing that the rules for debates throughout the primary had already been set and changing them midway through the contest could give an unfair advantage to certain candidates.
In the post, Perez wrote, “If we change our guidelines at the request of one candidate who has made climate change their campaign’s signature issue, how do we say no to the numerous other requests we’ve had? How do we say no to other candidates in the race who may request debates focused on an issue they’ve made central to their own campaigns?”
But activist groups haven’t taken “no” for an answer. Last month, the Sunrise Movement protested outside the DNC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. demanding a climate change debate. There were further protests outside the first Democratic debate but those numbers dwindled over time.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee has made climate change the primary focus of his campaign and has continued to press the national party to host a debate on the topic, but he too was met with opposition by Perez.
Inslee has found support from other members within the DNC, however. Axios reported 53 voting members protested the committee’s decision to deny his request for a climate change debate. Other candidates are now following Inslee’s lead. Mother Jones reports there are now 19 candidates in favor of a climate change debate.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmental activist, also seems poised to enter the presidential race, according to The Atlantic. Steyer has spent millions of dollars supporting candidates focused on climate change over the years but is reportedly frustrated by Inslee’s campaign and his failure to break 1 percent in the polls.
Two western candidates, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Montana Governor Steve Bullock have yet to take a position on whether there should be a climate change debate. Another western contender, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet told Politico a debate would be “great.”
Hickenlooper and Bullock have faced for criticism from environmental activists for not taking a strong enough position on climate change. Both were given harsh reviews by Greenpeace for their support of fossil fuels in the past and lack of detailed plans, as reported by Western Wire.
The first Democratic debate was held over two nights in Miami last month and covered a range of topics. But only 15 minutes was devoted to climate change during a total run time of four hours, according to Vox. The news site also accused the NBC News moderators’ questions on climate change of being “insufficient” and “muddled.”
The next debate is scheduled for July 30th and 31st in Detroit.