Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), whose presidential campaign has been built on prioritizing climate change above all issues, is calling on the Democratic National Committee to host a presidential candidate debate solely on that one topic.
“This can’t be a one-off question where candidates get to give a soundbite and move on: Climate change is at the heart of every issue that matters to voters, and voters deserve to hear what 2020 presidential candidates plan to do about it,” Inslee wrote in an email to supporters, with an accompanying petition directed at the DNC. “Each 2020 nominee needs to have a concrete plan to address climate change - and we deserve to hear those plans.”
The call comes as a similar though separate petition, conceived by the U.S. Youth Climate Strike Team, has gained traction, nearing the goal of 30,000 signatures as of 8 P.M. on Tuesday. That petition calls for all 2020 candidates to take part in a debate or forum around environmental issues.
Beyond scheduling the first two debates this summer, the DNC has not made commitments about the topics, hosts, or even structure of the rest of the dozen primary debates. In a statement to The Daily Beast, the committee said petitions for a single-issue debate on climate change would be considered, but it didn’t go beyond that.
“While Republicans refuse to even acknowledge that climate change is real, Democrats are eager to put forward their solutions to combat climate change, and we will absolutely have these discussions during the 2020 primary process,” Xochitl Hinojosa, communications director for the DNC told The Daily Beast when asked about the petition. “The DNC is currently ironing out the details for all 12 debates and will work with the networks to ensure that Democrats have a platform to discuss these issues directly with the American people."
An aide to Inslee said that the campaign gave a heads up to the DNC before formally launching the petition. The aide also said that Inslee would be fine if the committee added a 13th debate to the schedule that was solely focused on climate change instead of making it one of the 12 currently planned.
“There’s so much to talk about when it comes to our climate and our environment,” Inslee wrote. “Climate justice. The health impact that big polluters are having on our communities. Access to clean water. Creating union jobs in a clean energy economy. Protecting federal lands. These topics deserve a focused debate.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who was participating in a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works field hearing on recent flooding in the region, told The Daily Beast in a statement that she also wants to see a climate-change debate.
“Global climate change is the greatest threat to humanity today, and we need ideas that are big enough and bold enough to address a threat so grave. A DNC debate focused on climate change would show the world that America intends to lead again on this issue, and would be a smart place to discuss the key tenets of the Green New Deal—infrastructure, green jobs and clean air and water—and how to put a price on carbon,” Gillibrand said. “We need these ambitious goals to address climate change just like we needed President John F. Kennedy’s moonshot—not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard. I look forward to these discussions.”
UPDATE — April 17, 12:01 p.m.: This story has been updated with a new statement from Gillibrand.