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Democrats adopt platform promising strong action on climate change, energy

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Democrats adopt platform promising strong action on climate change, energy

During the second day of the Democrat's national convention, the party Aug. 18 announced that it had adopted a party platform that included planks reflecting many of the priorities of progressive climate hawks and the provisions of presidential nominee Joe Biden's climate and clean energy plan.

However, the 92-page document does not include several items on the progressives' wish list, such as the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks or prohibitions on fracking.

The convention's evening program set for Aug. 19 will address climate change and energy issues explicitly. But during events the day before, several climate action advocates touted Biden's climate platform and recommended actions he could take, if elected, in the first 100 days to help mitigate global warming.

Billionaire philanthropist and former presidential contender Tom Steyer called Biden's vision for the nation a "triumph for climate voters" during the convention's Council on the Environmental and Climate Crisis meeting. In July, Biden released a four-year, $2 trillion climate proposal that Steyer said also serves as a jobs and environmental justice plan.

"The Biden plan is the most progressive and aggressive demand for climate action that any president has ever entered office with," Steyer said. "But it's more than that. It creates the jobs we need. It builds a sustainable economy. And it delivers a more equitable and just future. It's exactly what's needed now."

Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, also a former presidential contender, called the plan "both enormous and adequate," given its legally enforceable standards and focus on racial injustice.

Should Biden win in November and Democrats retake the U.S. Senate, Democrats should eliminate the filibuster to help pass more aggressive climate legislation, Inslee said. As president, he noted, Biden could also halt several of the Trump administration's deregulatory efforts with a "stroke of the pen."

"He can take actions on public lands big time to prevent fossil fuel drilling big time," Inslee said. "He'll be smart enough to figure out how to do that, unlike Donald Trump, who every time he tries to repeal something is too incompetent to do it, thank goodness."

If elected, Biden could drive home the importance of taking climate action, helping to excite state and local governments and community groups, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said. Additionally, he asserted the party's presidential nominee can help set an international tone on climate mitigation.

"There's a lot of administrative and legislative options to take, but no one person, even the president, can solve this existential crisis," Ellison said. "But what the president can do is to greenlight the multitude of energy all over this country and unleash that talent."

Party platform approved

Despite the advocates' high expectations for a Biden presidency and praise for Biden's energy plan, the party's platform does not include certain actions promoted by climate action advocates.

For instance, before the delegates voted on the party's platform on Aug. 18, an amendment to a draft version of that platform seeking to end fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks was withdrawn. According to a DNC official, the amendment was submitted in error, and after the error was discovered, both the Biden campaign and Bernie Sanders campaign, along with those who submitted the amendment, agreed to withdraw the amendment from consideration. As such, the fossil fuel subsidy language was not included in the final platform put to a vote.

The party platform and Biden's energy plan also do not include a ban on fracking, despite calls from the progressive left to end the practice.

However, the adopted party platform does describe climate change as a "global emergency" and contains many items included in Biden's climate plan, such as calls to create an equitable "clean energy revolution" to rebuild the economy.

The party also agreed to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their environmental damage, ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, and include climate costs when determining fossil fuel royalties. Democrats also want to create an environmental justice fund to end legacy pollution that disproportionately affects minority and low-income communities.

Another plank of the platform supports restoring protections for "irreplaceable public lands and waters," such as Bears Ears National Monument and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The platform also calls for power grid modernizations and strong federal methane reduction standards.

Democrats want net-zero greenhouse gas emissions "as soon as possible, and no later than 2050," by eliminating carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 through "technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency," according to the platform. The party is also seeking to expand solar and wind deployment, including the installation of 500 million solar panels and 60,000 wind turbines. The platform includes a goal for all new buildings to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 as well.

"Recognizing the urgent need to decarbonize the power sector, our technology-neutral approach is inclusive of all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage," according to the platform.