The end of Bernie Sanders' second campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday provoked an immediate wave of praise from climate campaigners for the Vermont senator's ambitious plans to address the planetary emergency and calls for former Vice President Joe Biden, now the party's presumed nominee, to embrace his ex-rival's progressive proposals.
"Senator Sanders' presidential bid permanently changed the fight for a healthy and just planet."
—Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth Action
Sanders "built a campaign on holding the wealthy and powerful to account," Greenpeace USA said in a series of tweets. "His vision for a world beyond fossil fuels must now become the baseline" for the Democratic Party.
"#ThankYouBernie, for raising the bar. The fight for a just and peaceful future continues," Greenpeace declared. "It's now time for [Joe Biden] to step up. There is no 'middle of the road' approach to a crisis."
Noting that Biden has previously responded to pressure to improve his climate policies, the group added that the former vice president "should pick up where Sanders left off and say no to fossil fuels and yes to a #GreenNewDeal."
Although Biden's website states that he "believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face," the candidate has been criticized by advocacy groups for not going far enough to address the global crisis, which experts warn requires sweeping reforms within the next decade.
Sanders, by comparison, led the once-crowded field in terms of climate policy, unveiling a Green New Deal plan last August that supporters called a "game-changer." The senator topped various groups' climate scorecards, including rankings from Greenpeace and the Sunrise Movement, which endorsed Sanders in January.
Bernie helped mobilize a generation, but the fight doesn't begin or end with him.
We have plenty of work ahead of us, but we will rise to the challenge of building a movement that fights for us all, a movement that will bring power to the people.
— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) April 8, 2020
"We're not going to sugarcoat it: our hearts are heavy," Sunrise spokesperson Aracely Jimenez said in a statement. "In Bernie Sanders, we had a presidential candidate whose visionary solutions—Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, paid sick leave—are exactly the policies we need to get out of the crises we're living through now."
Echoing Sanders' own comments Wednesday about "winning the ideological battle," Jimenez said Sunrise members "find hope" in the popularity of progressive proposals embraced by the movement that powered his campaign.
"In Bernie Sanders, we had a presidential candidate whose visionary solutions—Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, paid sick leave—are exactly the policies we need to get out of the crises we're living through now."
—Aracely Jimenez, Sunrise Movement"We need to see this moment as a wake-up call. Our ideas are winning, but we're not going to win overnight," she continued. "We need to recommit to the hard, long-term work of building a fighting force capable of taking on Wall Street and the political establishment to win the change Bernie campaigned on. The ball's now in Joe Biden's court."
Biden, Jimenez warned, "needs to show young people that he's going to stand up for them by embracing policies like an ambitious Green New Deal that led young voters to flock to Bernie. If he doesn't do this, our work turning out our generation to defeat [President Donald] Trump this fall becomes a lot harder."
Friends of the Earth Action president Erich Pica also said in a statement that "it is now up to [former] Vice President Biden to excite climate activists around the country by offering bolder solutions that protect people and the planet over greedy corporate interests."
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"Senator Sanders' presidential bid permanently changed the fight for a healthy and just planet," Pica said Wednesday. "Throughout the campaign Sanders has been a constant, fearless voice for people and the planet, advocating for the bold ideas and real solutions like the Green New Deal, which met the scale of what is needed to avoid climate catastrophe."
"While his campaign may be over, our movement continues," Pica added. "At this time of crisis, the progressive policies Senator Sanders champions remain indispensable to advancing the transformational changes we so badly need."
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune tweeted that "the climate movement is stronger" because of Sanders and expressed relief that the senator vowed to continue working on the issues he championed as as candidate.
The climate movement is stronger because of @BernieSanders. From Congress to the campaign trail, his voice has been invaluable, and I'm comforted knowing his work continues. Thank you, @BernieSanders, and I look forward to our continued efforts to tackle the climate crisis. https://t.co/HqxX8UhI7t
— Michael Brune (@bruneski) April 8, 2020
The League of Conservation Voters thanked Sanders "for fighting for climate solutions that center on creating family-sustaining jobs in a clean energy economy and that invest in communities of color and low-income communities who have been hit first and worst by the climate crisis."
The Vermont senator was an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution introduced last year by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), one of Sanders' most high-profile surrogates. His campaign's climate plan called for transitioning to 100% renewable energy and investing $16.3 trillion to create 20 million well-paying union jobs and help communities in need over 10 years.
The Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund credited Sanders with directing attention to the planetary emergency throughout his party's contentious 2020 contest, tweeting that the senator's "longtime focus on solving the climate crisis pushed the issue to the top of policy discussions during the primary."
Even some other ex-presidential candidates, such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, praised Sanders' leadership in terms of climate policy.
.@BernieSanders is an extraordinary leader. From health care to climate change, his campaign drove the conversation around what's in the best interests of working families. We must continue that spirit and ethos as we work to unite the party to defeat Trump.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 8, 2020
.@TomSteyer: "Senator Sanders...deserves tremendous credit for pushing our party to more fully embrace the progressive values of economic equality, healthcare for all, climate justice + an America that works for working class families, not just the wealthy and big corporations." pic.twitter.com/SeHrrd67q1
— Johnny Verhovek (@JTHVerhovek) April 8, 2020
The New York Working Families Party thanked Sanders for "changing this country," highlighting how he "forced Medicare for All into the mainstream" and "demanded we confront climate change" while railing against billionaires and fighting for working people.
In a lengthy Twitter thread responding to Sanders' announcement Wednesday, Indivisible argued that his "focus on grassroots fundraising, rejection of PACs, and embrace of activism at the core of his race has changed what it means to run for president."
"If we learned anything from Senator Sanders and his campaign, it's that this isn't time for progressives to give up," the group added. "Now more than ever, we need to fight for a platform that reflects the pillars of his campaign: M4A, a GND, and reforms to protect the most vulnerable people."