Jul 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democrats seem aligned on climate policy, at least for the moment

Photo illustration of Joseph Biden and Bernie Sanders in profile with the globe between them
Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Getty Images photos: Ethan Miller and Brian Blanco

The six "unity" task forces that the Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders put together unveiled their policy recommendations yesterday.

The big picture: Big climate ideas include setting "technology-neutral" standards to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, and a goal of achieving net-zero emissions in all new buildings by 2030.

  • The climate task force was co-chaired by former Secretary of State John Kerry, who backed Biden in the primary, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who backed Sanders.
  • The document they produced are suggestions for the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee platform, so we'll see what's picked up. But it's hard to imagine all this huffing and puffing if it was going to just be shelved.

The intrigue: There's a lot more in the document, including a heavy emphasis on environmental justice, but what caught my attention is what yesterday's rollout says about where climate politics are at right now.

  • Like last week's detailed ideas from Nancy Pelosi-aligned House Democrats, the recommendations stop short of what the Sanders-AOC orbit wants in a climate blueprint. For instance, as Reuters notes, there's no fracking ban.
  • And like last week's unveiling, the new plan did not cause a flare-up in intra-left tensions over policy.
  • Varshini Prakash of the pro-Sanders Sunrise Movement, who was on the task force, said nice things about the result while vowing to keep pushing in some areas.

With Biden up in the polls and a chance for Democrats to regain the Senate too, there's little interest in dust-ups ahead of the election when there's a chance of opening a small window for climate legislation.

  • And the party establishment has actually moved pretty far left on climate already (probably well beyond what could ever be enacted, but that's another story), and that will be even more true if these new goals are adopted.
  • Finally, the upstart Sunrise Movement has adjusted its tactical posture in recent months (remember this is a group that in late 2019 claimed Biden's climate plan, which is vastly more aggressive than anything contemplated under Obama, was an "F-").

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