People want action, not just promises.
People want action, not just promises.

By Matt Maiorana and Collin Rees

Last Saturday, news broke that the Democratic National Platform Committee formally adopted a “climate test” into their draft platform that will be adopted this month. This is major news, and barring any unforeseen turn of events, it means that the principle of a climate test is now on the verge of being official Democratic Party policy.

Here’s the exact language adopted: “We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As we continue working to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, we must ensure federal actions don’t ‘significantly exacerbate’ global warming. We support a comprehensive approach that insures all federal decisions going forward contribute to solving, not significantly exacerbating climate change.”

Other important steps forward in the revised draft platform include amendments in support of a $15/hour minimum wage (including for tipped workers), putting a price on carbon, mounting a nationwide mobilization to lead the world in combatting climate change, and reforming our criminal justice system.

We didn’t get everything we wanted – noticeably absent are a national ban on fracking, direct opposition to the dangerous Trans-Pacific Partnership, and any opposition to funding for fossil fuel projects overseas. But the Democratic Party Platform is looking a lot better than it was a few weeks ago.

Why is the line about a “climate test” such a big deal? In 2012, the Democrats were the party of ‘All of the Above’ when it came to energy policy. A gusher of oil, a mountain of coal, dozens of poisoned community’s worth of fracked gas, and some renewables as the cherry on top…it was a terrible policy that completely ignored the raging climate crisis and debilitating impacts of extractive industries on local communities.

Oil Change International, along with many others, loudly and clearly called ‘All of the Above’ out as little more than climate denial by a different name. That was less than four years ago. Today we’ve moved the conversation far enough that Carol Browner – former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy – is writing op-eds proclaiming the death of “All of the Above.”

This is a hard-won victory that’s taken all of us. But the fight isn’t over. Now, to make the climate test a reality, we need to take this one-liner in the Democratic Party Platform and turn it into meaningful action.

Here’s what we need to see:

  • Better Energy Projections: The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is responsible for crafting “energy outlooks” that are used to guide and develop policy. But there’s a big problem – right now these projections utterly fail to take into account our existing climate commitments. They assume we’re going to continue using fossil fuels as if nothing’s wrong. All of this makes it extremely difficult to craft forward-looking energy policy that’s in line with what climate science says is necessary.
  • Require Agencies to Act: President Obama has the ability to require federal agencies to take climate change into account when making decisions – something he did himself when rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline. We need to transform the Democratic Platform’s language into a robust and applicable climate test that can guide government decisions going forward via executive order. Something like this would be a good start – and it’s already endorsed by 15+ organizations.
  • Keep it in the Ground & Just Transition: At the end of the day, our goal is to keep enough carbon in the ground to prevent the worst effects of global warming. It’s what the science says is necessary, and our public officials have a moral responsibility to do everything in their power to accomplish that while also providing pathways for a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy future. This needs to happen at all levels of government.

We’re at a tipping point, and the next few years will see several more. Now’s the time to push hard and make sure President Obama does as much as possible during his remaining time in office. We need the next President to come into office with a mandate to take real action on climate – and the policy infrastructure to hit the ground running.