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Members of the Sunrise Movement hubs from all across New York state gathered for a raucous rally on August 13, 2019 outside of the DNC headquarters on 420 Lexington Avenue in New York City to pressure the N.Y. members of the DNC to vote for a climate debate when the DNC gathers in San Francisco on August 22-24.

Members of the Sunrise Movement hubs from all across New York state gathered for a raucous rally on August 13, 2019 outside of the DNC headquarters on 420 Lexington Avenue in New York City to pressure the N.Y. members of the DNC to vote for a climate debate when the DNC gathers in San Francisco on August 22-24. (Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

With Key Vote Just Days Away, Activists Ramp Up Pressure on DNC to Hold #ClimateDebate

"Only a climate-specific debate will show whether the candidates are climate ready or not."

Andrea Germanos

The Democratic National Committee faced increased pressure on Monday to hold a climate debate from progressive organizations demanding the party live up to its own governing platform and "treat this crisis like the emergency it is."

Efforts to change the DNC's mind appear headed to a headed to a fever pitch as the committee will meet later this week and reportedly vote (pdf) on a proposed resolution to hold a climate debate—and potentially a resolution put forth by DNC Chair Tom Perez that critics believe represents an effort to kill a climate-focused debate.

Eyeing that potential snuff-out—as well as the severity of planetary crisis— Progressive Democrats of America on Monday called on the Democratic presidential candidates to sign on to an open letter to Perez

The document (pdf), which has already nabbed signatures from noted figures in the movement including 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Greenpeace executive director USA Annie Leonard, filmmaker Josh Fox, and activist Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., admonishes the party's "deeply problematic" stance to not make "the existential threat of global climate breakdown" the focus of one of the dozen Democratic presidential debates.

The letter points to the party platform's own Global Climate Leadership plank, which says, in part, "We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II."

Given that stated commitment, says the letter, it "defies common sense" that the party refuses to hold a climate debate.

Russell Greene, an advisor to PDA and an author of the platform's climate emergency language, said in a statement that if the platform "actually guides anything, the Democrats will sponsor a climate debate."

"Chairman Perez needs to stop dodging the issue," said Greene, "and let the candidates debate their plans. Only a climate-specific debate will show whether the candidates are climate ready or not."

CNN and MSNBC will hold climate-focused forums featuring 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidates, a development the youth-led Sunrise Movement welcomed as a sign of their pressure working.  But the upcoming forums did little to quell activists' demands for a climate debate.

"If you needed another reason why the @DNC *must* plan a full-fledged #ClimateDebate, here it is," Oil Change US tweeted Monday, responding to news that White House hopeful Kamala Harris will be attending a fundraiser instead of the CNN event.  "Major candidates may skip a forum, but they wouldn't skip a #DemDebate."

Sunrise, in a Monday morning tweet, drew attention to this week being decision time for the resolution for a climate-focused debate. "We need all hands on deck if we want to win the vote," said Sunrise.

The youth-led group has been putting steady pressure on the DNC, launching a seven-week campaign to demand a climate debate. Their actions have included a three-day sit-in at the DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C. in June.  

"This pressure worked," Sunrise declares on its website. "The day after the sit-in ended, the Democratic National Committee confronted internal pressure to hold a climate debate, and scheduled a vote on this issue at their national meeting from August 22-24 in California, where representatives from every state will come together."

To make sure the party acts in accordance with the urgency the climate crisis demands, Sunrise is calling on people to "mobilize in every corner of the country to turn up the heat on local and state party officials."

"It's time," the group says, "to turn up the heat for a #ClimateDebate."


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