Democrats’ climate debate debate is not going away

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Monday, June 17, 2019

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) speaks during an event at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in Washington. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The debate among Democrats about holding a climate change debate is not going away.

Environmental activists and 2020 candidates are still pressing the party to dedicate one of the dozen presidential debates it is staging to what they see as an urgent, generational crisis. Yet party leaders have not given in to the calls for a climate-specific event, saying they do not want to highlight one issue over others.

The back-and-forth between Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and advocates for a climate-themed debate has at times turned acrimonious. The uproar underscores the degree to which ensuring the United States is addressing the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere — and preparing to deal with their effects — has become a priority among Democratic voters.

The DNC came down with its decision last week, writing in a letter to Democratic candidates that “the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area,” DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said. Democratic candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has tried for years to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions in his own state, had formally asked the DNC for a climate debate in a letter.

Inslee, who has centered his campaign around climate change, fired back at the committee for “silencing the voices of Democratic activists.”

Perez followed up by penning a  on Medium explaining that the party has received more than 50 requests for issue-specific debates. “And we knew it would be unfair and unrealistic to ask the candidates to participate in so many,” he wrote.

But activists are not taking no for an answer. In Washington on Wednesday, a coalition of groups delivered a petition with more than 200,000 signatures to DNC headquarters calling for a climate change debate. And that same day in Kansas City, activists with the Sunrise Movement, an environmental group, confronted Perez, accusing the chairman of using the party rules as “a very thin defense.”

Perez promised that portions of the scheduled debates will be on climate change. “You carve out a section of the debate, and it’s on issue A or issue B,” Perez responded. “We will be doing that throughout the course of the debate season.”

Perez also said he did not want to craft a debate around a single candidate’s signature issue.

But more than a dozen presidential candidates — including former vice president Joe Biden, who is leading in polls — have joined Inslee’s call for a climate debate.

“I think that’s what we should be doing,” Biden said this week when asked by a Greenpeace activist about a climate-focused forum. “Yeah, I’m all in.”

The DNC, though, is not the only organization that can hold events. Planned Parenthood’s political arm, for example, is hosting a forum for 2020 candidates on women’s health issues. Abortion, like climate change, is emerging as a key issue in the Democratic primaries.

Major environmental groups are holding back from staging their own forums for environmental issues.

“We are considering a number of options, but we are focused on making clear to the DNC that they still have the opportunity to make the right choice,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

— Update on the oil tanker attack in the Gulf of Oman: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed fingers at Iran for what he called a “blatant assault” on the petrochemical tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. He said the United States would “defend itself and its allies against Iranian aggression in the region,” The Post’s Erin Cunningham, Anne Gearan and Carol Morello . “But he provided no evidence that the explosions had been the work of Iranian forces.” Late Thursday, the U.S. military released a video it says shows Iran retrieving an unexploded mine from a tanker after the explosion. Meanwhile, Iran dismissed claims that it was behind the attack, condemning the Trump administration for what it called “economic terrorism,” Cunningham reports.

The the head of the company that operates the ships attacked said the ship was hit by a flying object, “disputing at least part of the account of United States officials who had blamed Iran for the attack,” the New York Times . “Our crew said that the ship was attacked by a flying object,” said Yutaka Katada, who is the president of the operator, Kokuka Sangyo. He added: “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”