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Democratic Party Platform Fails to Deliver on Climate Emergency

Face-to-face with a rapidly growing climate crisis and the threat of a second term of President Trump, one might assume the Democratic Party would be rallying around bold and urgent climate action in their party platform. One would be wrong.

On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued a fire tornado warning in California, as hundreds of wildfires exploded across the state, leading to Governor Gavin Newsom declaring a statewide emergency and mobilizing the National Guard.

The next day, the highest temperature recorded on earth with modern instruments — a blistering 130 degrees Fahrenheit — was recorded in California’s Death Valley as the western half of the United States is baking under a record-breaking, climate change-fueled heat wave.

On Tuesday, mere hours before the start of the Democratic National Committee Climate Crisis Council at the Democratic Party National Convention, HuffPost reported that the DNC had shockingly removed language from the party platform that called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks.

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The removed language reads: “Democrats support eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels, and will fight to defend and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.” Notably, this is the exact same language that was included in the previous party platform, as written by author and climate activist Bill McKibben.

The original rough draft of the climate platform was released for review on July 21st. Amendments were drafted and proposed by both the Biden and Sanders teams over the following days. The proposed amendments included the fossil fuel subsides language, duplicated from the 2016 platform.

All non-controversial amendments went into the Manager’s Mark — a ledger of party demands voted on as a single package — which was then approved by the platform committee. This included the fossil fuel subsidies amendment. However, in the final draft of the party platform circulated Monday, the subsidies language disappeared.

A DNC spokesperson claims that they discovered the fossil fuel subsidies language in the Manager’s Mark, and that it had been “incorrectly included”. The DNC removed the language, but the removal was never approved by the platform committee. No procedural consent was given for removal. If the inclusion was simply an error, why did the DNC quietly remove previously approved language without following procedure or notifying the committee responsible for drafting the platform?

Unsurprisingly, outrage from environmentalists and the activist community exploded across social media.

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“Yet another shocking development in the Democratic Party Platform, the DNC quietly dropped an amendment that declares support for ending fossil fuel subsidies & tax breaks. In the midst of a climate emergency, this is an outrage. #EndFossilFuelSubsidies”, Bernie Delegates Network stated on Twitter.

“WTF?! what. the. hell. did. you. just. do???” said RL Miller, DNC delegate and founder of Climate Hawks Vote.

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Removing the subsidies language is even more perplexing when one considers both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris call for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks in their climate policy proposals. Biden is not exactly seen as a climate champion within the environmental movement. His initial climate policies during the presidential primary received low scores from environmental groups such as Sunrise Movement and Greenpeace, and a steady flow of protests from activists have called him out for refusing to ban fracking, among other positions seen as intentionally incremental in nature.

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Greenpeace released its analysis and ranking of the DNC climate platform today, giving the party platform an underwhelming C+. This is lower than the updated B+ rankings the organization gave to both Biden and Harris’ climate plans.

“The Democrats have an opportunity to galvanize millions of young voters with an ambitious, visionary climate platform, but they’re making a mess of it,” said Charlie Jiang, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA. “This platform is a step backwards, and we deserve better.”

As climate activists responded in outrage on social media, Biden’s spokesperson responded on Twitter, saying “Joe Biden continues to be committed to ending U.S. fossil fuel subsidies & then rallying the rest of the world to do the same — as was outlined in his climate plan last year. Here at home, he’ll use those dollars to instead invest in a clean energy future and create union jobs.”

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Not only does Biden’s climate plan call for the United States to end fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks, it goes even further, demanding “a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies” and stating that “there is simply no excuse for subsidizing fossil fuel, either in the United States or around the world”. His plan pledges to cut fossil fuel subsidies his first year in office, and to “secure a global commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies by the end of his first term.”

All of which raises serious questions about the DNC platform. Biden is considered a centrist Democrat by most political observers, so why would the party create a climate platform to the right of a centrist?

Voters overwhelmingly support bold climate action, with 87% of Democrats and 60% of independents supporting the Green New Deal based on a poll from Data for Progress. Voters also strongly support ending fossil fuel subsidies, with a net favorability rating of +52% for Democrats and +30% net favorability for independents.

The world is in a time of crisis from the climate emergency, and the only way to avoid catastrophic societal destruction will be through bold and urgent action. If the Democratic Party cannot bring itself to put non-binding language into the party platform, how can Americans trust the party to take the steps necessary to avoid a global climate disaster? The world is fast approaching tipping points that will unleash irreversible feedback loops, locking us into a future of climate cataclysm.

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Intentional incrementalism and catering to the fossil fuel industry is immoral, irresponsible, and downright unacceptable. It is time for the Democratic establishment to lead — or get out of the way.

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Ben Hauck

Republished with the author's permission.