Yesterday, ten of the Democratic presidential candidates vowed to take unparalleled action on climate change in the first prime-time televised forum dedicated to the issue in a presidential race, promising to undo the current administration’s environmental policies, allocate trillions of dollars to promote renewable energy programs and pressure companies to pay new fees and taxes on carbon dioxide pollution.

The town-hall style forum on CNN was a response to strong interest in the politics of climate change among many Democrats and young voters, particularly the Sunrise Movement—the youth-led movement that helped develop the Green New Deal. The 7-hour event followed the Democratic National Committee’s decision not to sanction a debate devoted to the subject, frustrating student activists and some candidates.

Each presidential candidate was given a 40-minute segment so they could provide long responses to questions from both CNN moderators and passionate audience members. The questions covered a wide range of topics including the environmental implications of meat consumption, fracking bans, and former Vice President Joe Biden’s relationship with former fossil fuel executive, Andrew Goldman.

During the forum nearly all candidates agreed to end oil and gas leases on public land, rejoin the Paris climate change agreement and to create incentives for sustainable farming practices, prompting criticism from candidate Senator Cory Booker. “I’m sorry,” he said. “That is, like, a cost of entry even to run for president.” Addressing climate change is not one item on a list of policies, it is “the lens through which we must do everything,” he said. Under his administration, he said, every department would be expected to have a climate plan.

More than half of the 2020 candidates that were at the forum also supported putting fees and taxes on carbon dioxide pollution in some form, targeting larger companies. This idea, though controversial, is the one policy that most environmental economists agree is the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

Sources: NYT 8/4/19; NYT 8/5/19

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