August 1, 2019

Second Round of Debates Drag On Climate Action, Despite Critical Mass of Support for Climate Leadership


Washington D.C. – With two nights of debate, and mobilizations taking place every day to demand institutional attention on the climate crisis, there is no excuse for the media and the DNC to continue treating the climate crisis as a niche issue.The mantel for bold climate leadership was nevertheless taken up by candidates like Sanders, Warren, and Inslee who delivered ideas aligned with community demands.  Highlights from the Detroit debates include Sanders and Warren naming the corruption of fossil fuel companies, with Sanders additionally voicing support for a just transition; Harris and Gillibrand expressing their support for a Green New Deal; Booker calling to go beyond the Paris Accord; and Inslee’s urgency on phasing out fossil fuels. 

Responding to the debates, 350 Action’s Director Tamara Toles O’Laughlin said: 

“Climate change is not now, and will never be, a single-issue topic. Despite the limited time offered for climate vision, the candidates themselves worked to connect the climate crisis to economic opportunity, union jobs, American manufacturing, public health, and environmental injustice. It is promising that several candidates spoke to bold policy solutions to stop fossil fuel extraction and address climate change, although no one candidate spoke to the totality of action that must be taken. These responses were a direct result of the work of our movement to highlight these linkages. The climate context for this debate is driven home in Detroit where communities have been organizing against environmental racism, pollution, and unsafe drinking water for decades. 

“We remain unimpressed at the lack of explicit connection between the impacts of the climate crisis and the dignity and rights of migrants. Instead of making efforts to deeply address the issue of climate, the network and moderators chose to pose misleading questions, falsely pitting workers and the climate movement against each other. We are shocked that in this contest of ideas, the debate program gave lesser airtime to a defining crisis of our time.

“Climate change costs this country every day that we fail to take action and time spent posturing adds to the injury. 350 Action is clear that communities deserve a Green New Deal that transitions our communities to 100% renewables, phases out dirty energy, and creates millions of well paying, green, union jobs. Candidates must commit to this level of action and hold the fossil fuel industry criminally liable for climate obstructionism.”

The fact is, candidates’ levels of ambition and vision for tackling the climate crisis vary widely with many plans that pale in comparison to the scale of this existential challenge. This is why we launched a Day One Pledge for candidates to sign and pledge to bold, transformative, climate action from Day One and why we continue to call upon the DNC to host a climate debate. 


Press Contact: Monica Mohapatra, U.S. Communications Specialist,