A Democratic National Committee panel on Thursday denied a proposal for a presidential primary debate dedicated to climate change, angering environmental activists who have put pressure on the organization to tackle the issue.
The resolution failed in a 17-8 vote from the organization’s resolutions committee in San Francisco.
Symone Sanders, a DNC member and senior adviser for presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, argued that rewriting debate rules would “be dangerous territory in the middle of a Democratic primary process.” Biden, on the other hand, has supported the idea of a climate debate.
This point is similar to one made by Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez in an opinion piece in June. He said changing the rules for a climate debate would be unfair to those who have requested debates dedicated to other subjects.
The decision is not surprising, as the DNC previously told presidential candidates that it would not host a climate debate and would bar anyone who participated in a climate debate from future debates. But the resolution gave supporters hope for change.
The crowd was filled with members of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate group that has been pushing the DNC for a climate debate, who started singing a version of the song “Which Side Are You On?” after the vote and walked out.
The rejection comes a day after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who focused his campaign on fighting climate change, dropped out of the presidential race and announced he will seek reelection.
The panel passed a measure supporting forums on the issue “with the candidates appearing on the same stage, engaging one another in discussion.” CNN and MSNBC have such forums set for next month. The measure will have to pass the committee’s general session on Saturday, as well.
Climate change has already garnered more attention in the 2020 election than it did during the 2016 election, when candidates spent just five minutes and 27 seconds discussing it during debates. Roughly 15 minutes during the pair of 2020 debates in June and about 20 minutes in the most recent two were focused on climate change.
According to a poll released by Reuters in June, nearly 70% of Americans want “aggressive” action on climate change. However, most people don’t want to pay up to help the cause, with only a third supporting an extra $100 tax to go toward the issue.