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Hundreds of climate activists gathered outside the CNN studios at 30 Hudson Yards where a Town Hall on Climate Policy was held on September 4, 2019 to tell the leading Democratic Party presidential candidates that its time for them all to commit to the boldest and fastest climate actions now. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

DNC's Climate Council Urges Party to Go Beyond Biden Plan, Calling for Fracking Ban and $16 Trillion Renewable Energy Investment

"The climate emergency is here. Democrats need to take the lead on confronting it."

Julia Conley

The Democratic National Committee on Monday attempted to dismiss its own climate council as an "insurgent" group that isn't "taken seriously" after the panel released policy guidance that goes far beyond presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's own climate platform. 

The DNC Environment and Climate Council released its 2020 Platform Recommendations for the party on June 4, calling on the party to "commit to the spending necessary to address the climate emergency: $10-$16 trillion in federal expenditures over the next decade."

The recommendation was notably more ambitious than the platform pushed by Biden during the Democratic primary pledging just $1.7 trillion for shifting to renewable energy. The council's proposal reportedly frustrated DNC leaders, one of whom firmly told Reuters Monday, "Joe Biden will be writing the platform for our national convention."

Michelle Deatrick, chair of the council and a former presidential campaign surrogate of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), told Reuters that the panel has been in touch with Biden's campaign and the joint task force that was formed by Biden and Sanders, including the two primary candidates' advisers. 

The progressives on the climate task force include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash. The panel and similar task forces focusing on the economy, healthcare, and other key issues are helping Biden to update his platform for the general election. 

The DNC climate council's specific recommendations include:

  • banning fracking and oil and gas exports;
  • directing "massive investments to renewable energy infrastructure, creating millions of jobs, and [ending] all incentives and subsidies of the fossil fuel industry;" and
  • establishing a federal Just Transition Task Force to develop a program supporting communities and workers impacted by the climate crisis and the transition to renewables, and [funding] the program.

In addition to pledging a fraction of the renewable energy funding called for by the council, Biden's current plan would permit the continuation of fracking and oil and gas exports for the time being.

Deatrick tweeted last week that the Democratic Party must "stand in strong contrast to the Republicans" by presenting a platform that meets the needs of 2020, pointing out that the GOP has so far not updated its platform for the election, instead recycling proposals from four years ago. 

The Environment and Climate Council was formed by the DNC a year ago after the party angered climate advocates by refusing to hold a primary debate specifically focusing on the climate crisis. 

"In 2008, the Democratic Party platform had just over half a page on climate and environment. In 2016, we had about four and a half pages," Deatrick told New Hampshire Public Radio in February as the council prepared to draft its proposal. "We are going to be looking at the full range of policy possibilities for environmental and climate issues [this year], and we would like them to be fairly detailed and very bold and ambitious." 

Although numerous polls have shown that the climate crisis is a top issue for U.S. voters across the political spectrum—with Democrats ranking it as their second-most important priority after healthcare in a survey by Climate Nexus earlier this year—one DNC leader claimed that the council's proposals are "a nonstarter."

"Nobody takes them seriously," the senior Democrat told Reuters.

Despite such claims, the council's policy recommendations have been endorsed by a number of leading national groups, including 350 Action, Friends of the Earth Action, and the Young Democrats of America Hispanic Caucus.

"We strongly urge Joe Biden and the DNC to adopt this progressive platform for a just transition away from fossil fuels and industrial agriculture," tweeted Friends of the Earth on Monday. 

The council also circulated a petition to galvanize Democratic voters in support of a robust climate action plan for the party in 2020.

"The climate emergency is here. Democrats need to take the lead on confronting it," the petition reads. "We must act before the devastating damage to our planet, country and people is inevitable and irreversible."

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