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To Fight Climate Emergency, Democrats Told: 'We Need Leaders With the Backbone to Stand Up to Big Polluters. Full Stop.'

"For any shot at averting further climate catastrophe, all elected officials must say no to fossil fuels and fight for a Green New Deal that puts people and planet first."

Climate action groups have urged Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to support the Green New Deal if she is to resume her position as House Speaker when the new congressional term begins. (Photo: Global Climate Action Summit/Flickr/cc)

As Democrats hoping to sit at the helm of their party in the House in the next congressional term vie for support ahead of a January vote on the House floor, dozens of progressive groups released a letter Tuesday telling candidates that their leadership must include a firm stance against the fossil fuel industry, including a rejection of all donations from oil and gas companies.

Forty-seven national organizations including 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA wrote that with the scientific community making it abundantly clear that carbon emissions must be immediately curbed in order to keep the planet from warming more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Democrats must fully extricate themselves from fossil fuel interests.

Ensuring that the Democratic leadership is not in debt to corporate polluters, wrote the groups, will make bold legislative action to curb carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy far more likely in the coming term.

"It will be impossible for Democratic leadership to champion this agenda while continuing to accept campaign contributions from the fossil fuel executives, lobbyists, and PACs who continue to deceive the public about the impacts of climate change and who buy out politicians to ensure that climate action is stalled or blocked," reads the letter.

Climate action groups have been joined by progressive newly-elected lawmakers like Reps.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) in calling for a Green New Deal. The bold set of initiatives is modeled on the Depression-era New Deal and aimed at shifting the U.S. to a 100 percent renewable energy society by investing in green technology and infrastructure and ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

Democrats took a total of more than $4 million from the fossil fuel sector in 2018, but as May Boeve of 350.org has argued, hundreds of politicians across the country have proven that they don't need oil and has money to get elected.

"With over 1,000 politicians rejecting fossil fuel money, real climate leadership definitively means no fossil fuel ties," said Boeve in a statement. "For any shot at averting further climate catastrophe, all elected officials must say no to fossil fuels and fight for a Green New Deal that puts people and planet first. It's not enough to acknowledge the reality of climate change—we need officials who walk the talk and support equitable solutions to this global crisis."

The lawmakers who the groups aimed their message at include Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is running for House Speaker; Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is running for House Majority Leader; and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is running for House Majority Whip.

"We cannot tackle this crisis if our politicians are still accepting money from the corporate polluters who are intent on destroying communities and our environment for a profit," said Lukas Ross, senior policy analyst with Friends of the Earth. "It is time for all Democrats to sign the no fossil fuel money pledge, and fully commit themselves to a 100 percent renewable energy future that protects all people and the planet."

Tuesday's letter was also signed by the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led organization that has been staging sit-ins on Capitol Hill in order to pressure all members of Congress to back the Green New Deal.

"To preserve human civilization as we know it, top U.N. scientists say we need to transform our economy and society in the next 12 years," said Varshini Prakash of the youth-led group Sunrise Movement. "Yet, politicians of both parties are putting the bottom-lines of their campaign donors above my generation's future. Young people need bold leaders who will reject fossil fuel money and back a Green New Deal—and we're ready to challenge politicians of both parties who refuse to stand with us."

After the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reversed a brief ban on fossil fuel donations earlier this year, many lawmakers who have been in office for several years or decades are still happily taking contributions from corporate polluters. But as the groups pointed out, those representatives are at odds with more than half of the young progressives who were elected this month.

"Making this pledge now would ensure that the Democratic caucus upholds a standard endorsed by over half of the incoming Freshman Democratic class," concluded the groups in their letter. "The choice could not be more simple or more important."

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