'Unacceptable': Tom Perez, DNC Accused of Trying to Stifle Climate Debate for 2020 Dems

At a June event in Kansas City, a Sunrise Movement activist confronted Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez about refusing to hold a climate debate. (Photo: Sunrise Movement KC/Twitter)

'Unacceptable': Tom Perez, DNC Accused of Trying to Stifle Climate Debate for 2020 Dems

"Why is Tom Perez trying to kill the momentum for a climate debate?"

Activists are raising the alarm that the Democratic Party may be about to kill efforts to schedule a debate focused on the climate crisis through a resolution being pushed by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez that includes language seen as a potential excuse for not covering the topic.

"Climate change is not a small marginal issue, it is an all-encompassing issue that affects everything we care about as Democrats."
--Jay Inslee

The Perez resolution, which was publicly revealed Friday by HuffPost reporter Alexander Kaufman, is entitled "Resolution Recommitting the Democratic Party to the Work of Combating Climate Change and Creating Jobs by Growing our Clean Energy Economy." The proposal lists nine points on climate, but it's the last one--a relatively innocuous few lines of praise for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates--that has green groups concerned.

From the resolution:

WHEREAS, Democratic candidates for President of the United States are demonstrating their commitment to tackling the issue of climate change, having already scheduled two televised forums on CNN and MSNBC to discuss the issue, and debating the issue during each of the DNC-sanctioned presidential primary debates; THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, Democrats will address the serious threat of climate change through bold and inclusive solutions that grow the clean energy economy and expand America's middle class.

"Whereas Democratic candidates are proposing real solutions to the crisis; and whereas a forum is not the same as a debate, therefore be it resolved that Tom Perez needs to stop looking for excuses to not hold a climate debate," tweeted green group Sierra Club.

"Simply put, the people demand and deserve to hear a real debate on the climate crisis, not yet another DC leader obstructing the conversation," the group added. "It's time we get a climate debate."

According to HuffPost's Kaufman, the resolution language is suspect to activists that already distrust the DNC:

That, say activists, appears to provide cover to the DNC to reject a resolution calling for an official debate on the climate crisis. The DNC is expected to consider proposals for a climate debate and a party-sanctioned forum later this month.

"Why is Tom Perez trying to kill the momentum for a climate debate?" progressive group Justice Democrats wondered on Twitter.

"We need to have real action to combat climate change, or we will kill our planet."
--Jelani Drew-Davi, CREDO

A number of climate advocates released statements decrying the proposal.

"It's good that MSNBC and CNN are planning to do forums, but that's not enough," said Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash. "This crisis still needs more airtime, and voters deserve to hear candidates vying for the most powerful office in the world debate their plans to address climate change."

Climate Hawks political director R.L. Miller, in a statement, lashed out at the DNC.

"Perez's resolution implies that the short bits of time devoted to climate during each two-hour debate so far is quite enough and that's all they're getting, how dare climate activists be like Oliver Twist and demand more?" said Miller.

Presidential candidate Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington, was also unsparing in his criticism of the DNC.

"This anti-climate debate resolution is unacceptable," said Inslee. "The world just experienced the hottest July on record; we need a full debate on this issue."

"Climate change is not a small marginal issue," Inslee added, "it is an all-encompassing issue that affects everything we care about as Democrats--our health, our economy, our national security, and more. We need a full debate of the candidates' positions on this issue."

"If Perez was serious about addressing our climate crisis, he would support a meaningful debate about climate change with the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates," said CREDO Action campaign manager Jelani Drew-Davi. "The town halls by CNN and MSNBC and one-off questions in general debates won't educate voters on the candidates' solutions.

"We need to have real action to combat climate change, or we will kill our planet," they added, "but Tom Perez wants to push it under the rug until it's too late for us all."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.