DNC draft climate platform more progressive than 2016

By Timothy Cama | 07/23/2020 01:10 PM EDT

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Biden/Facebook

A draft of the Democratic Party’s policy platform backs aggressive climate change proposals including decarbonizing the electricity sector by 2035 and achieving net-zero new buildings by 2030.

The draft largely aligns with the policies proposed so far by former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.

It takes cues from the report issued last month by Democrats on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (E&E Daily, June 30).


The plan, first reported by Politico, also includes work done by the "unity task force" convened by Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden’s last primary opponent to drop out (E&E Daily, July 6).

In a loss for progressives, it has few explicit measures to stop fossil fuel use, or to end fossil fuel extraction on public lands or hydraulic fracturing.

Biden supports cutting off new permits to produce fossil fuels on federal land and offshore, but doesn’t want to end fracking and has no plan to end the nation’s fossil fuel use completely.

Nonetheless, the environment and climate change provisions in the draft platform are far more aggressive in key areas than the Democrats’ 2016 platform and are more detailed.

"To reach net-zero emissions as rapidly as possible, Democrats commit to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency," the platform draft states, specifying that the standards would allow technologies such as hydropower and nuclear.

It proposes introducing a "bold, national goal" of net-zero new buildings by 2030, making U.S. agriculture "the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions," and "immediately" working with California officials to implement major new greenhouse gas and efficiency standards for vehicles.

In line with Biden’s plans and rhetoric, the platform presents many of its proposals as job creators, promising millions of good-paying, union jobs, with an emphasis on minority populations.

"Democrats will make investments to create millions of family-supporting and union jobs in clean energy generation, energy efficiency, clean transportation, advanced manufacturing, and sustainable agriculture across America," it states.

"All jobs in the clean energy economy should provide an opportunity to join a union," it says. "Democrats will restore and protect workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively."

Daniel Aldana Cohen, a University of Pennsylvania sociology professor who advised Sanders’ campaign on climate matters, said the draft platform doesn’t go far enough.

"I’d like to see more evidence that Biden’s core economic team is committed to truly public green investment, as there’s no evidence that market mechanisms and private investment will deliver specific environmental justice gains," he said.

"On a lot of issues, we still need more ambition and detail," Cohen said. "Promises in areas like green housing are vague, making accountability impossible."

Cohen did, however, praise its efforts in some areas, including its emphasis on environmental justice.

The document was written by the Democratic National Committee’s platform drafting committee and sent yesterday to delegates scheduled to attend the party’s convention next month, where they will make final decisions on the nonbinding policy document.