11th Democratic Primary Debate has Biden, Sanders Talking Climate Strategy
Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders did something unusual when they met last Sunday evening for the eleventh televised debate of the Democratic Party’s presidential primary: they spent about 12 minutes talking about the climate crisis.
The two remaining major candidates for the Democratic nomination had moved the debate from a public hall in Phoenix to a television studio in Washington, DC, “with their podiums placed a World Health Organization-approved six feet apart and no audience but the moderators,” Grist reports. “It was weird seeing the two candidates in what was essentially a television-ready bunker,” but “it was even weirder watching them trying to one-up each other over who would be the better climate champion.”
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In a debate that opened with a focus on the coronavirus pandemic, “the first climate question came nearly 14 minutes into the second half of the debate,” EcoWatch writes. “CNN’s Jake Tapper asked the candidates how their climate plans would address the fact that the climate crisis is also a ‘health crisis’ that could lead to the spread of infectious diseases, as the World Health Organization has warned.”
Rather than directly answering the question, both candidates “spoke in more general terms about the seriousness of the climate crisis and the need to act immediately, though Biden did mention that the crisis already had health costs,” the newsletter adds.
“There’s an awful lot of people today who are in fact getting ill because of the changes in the environment,” the former vice president and Delaware senator said.
After that, attention turned to the dollars attached to the candidates’ climate programs—US$16.3 trillion for Sanders, $1.7 trillion for Biden. “Critics deride Sanders’ pitch as unrealistic and Biden’s as too little to meet the challenge,” Grist notes. Sanders is promising to shift all U.S. electricity production to renewable sources by 2030, ban oil and gas fracking, end fossil subsidies, and “treat fossil fuel companies like Big Tobacco and ‘hold them accountable’,” the publication says. Biden “wants to invest heavily in research and development into green technology and ban fracking on federal lands,” and has made a pledge of 500,000 new electric vehicle charging points across the country “one of his favourite debate talking points”.
Biden maintained his climate spending plan is enough to get the job done, has pledged to bring the U.S. back into the 2015 Paris Agreement, and in what Grist interpreted as a policy shift, said he would ban new fracking wells. “My plan takes on the fossil fuel industry and unites the world,” he said. “I’m saying we bring [countries] together, make them live up to their commitments, and if they don’t live up to their commitments, they pay a financial price for it.”
Sanders replied that Biden’s plan is “nowhere near enough,” adding that “it’s not a question of re-entering the Paris accord. That’s fine. Who cares. It’s not a big deal,” compared to the more sweeping changes the country needs.
“[W]e started this debate talking about a warlike situation in terms of the coronavirus and we said, ‘We have to act accordingly’,” Sanders sad. “You said it. I think you’re right. I said it. We have to act dramatically, boldly, if we’re going to save lives in this country and around the world.” And “I look at climate change in exactly the same way.”