Progressive groups have a challenge for presidential hopefuls: Put your money where your mouth is on the climate, and swear off contributions from fossil fuel companies.
To affirm their commitment to taking on the climate crisis and "standing up to the corrupting influence of fossil-fuel companies," the campaign, launched on Monday by The Nation and 350 Action, is calling on 2016 presidential and congressional candidates to sign a pledge committing to "neither solicit nor accept campaign contributions from any oil, gas, or coal company."
The Nation editors said they have asked each of the major declared presidential candidates in the the Democratic, Republican, and Green parties if they would be willing to honor the pledge.
Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, as well as Green candidate Jill Stein, have agreed to do so. Democratic candidate Lincoln Chafee said he supported strong climate action but would not sign the pledge.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, along with the 14 Republican candidates contacted—13 of which deny mankind's influence on climate change—did not reply.
As Grist reporter John Light noted, the challenge puts increasing pressure on Clinton, whose failure to respond does not match up with her rhetoric on the climate crisis.
"Climate change is an issue she’ll have to engage with continually through the election cycle," Light writes, "and oil and coal companies' objectives are, presumably, at odds with those of a candidate who has called for 'decisive' action to 'head off the most catastrophic consequences' of climate change."
Like the 1990's, when politicians were pressured to deny contributions from Big Tobacco, the pledge seeks to minimize the influence of the fossil fuel industry on politics.
"The carbon barons employ their vast wealth and the political and media influence it buys to maintain the status quo, confusing the public with disinformation and cajoling or intimidating the people’s elected representatives into refusing a safer course," The Nation writes. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in the 2012, the oil and gas industry contributed at least $76 million to presidential and congressional candidates; the coal industry spent an additional $15 million.
Meanwhile, the 2016 campaign is expected to attract unprecedented amounts of outside money.
The pledge pivots off the growing success of the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign, which has seen scores of governments, universities, companies, and pension funds around the world committing to pull their funds from oil, gas and coal companies.
"Voters deserve to know whether our candidates will do what the science demands: keep the majority of US coal, oil, and gas reserves underground," the Nation writes. "And if we’re going to trust politician’s assurances, we need to know that they’re not taking campaign contributions from the very industry that’s driving this crisis."