WASHINGTON — Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has repeatedly said that although climate change is a top issue for Democrats, the national party will not host a debate solely dedicated to the topic during the 2020 primary race.

However, some DNC members are trying to change that.

Last week, Washington state Democratic Party Chairwoman Tina Podlodowski announced she will introduce a resolution advocating for the committee to host a climate debate. The resolution comes as a number of progressive organizations and top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates call on their party’s national committee to host a debate focused on climate change.

The resolution also states that if the DNC does not host one, then Democratic candidates “are free to participate in any and all forums or debates focused on Climate Change sponsored by other groups.”

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Podlodowski said Monday that a climate change debate wouldn’t be a “single issue debate,” and instead would also touch on other policy areas such as the economy and health inequities.

“It’s certainly an issue that requires more than a sound bite,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. “I think whoever the next American president should be needs to be able to talk about these issues and show the breadth of what Democrats are doing around us.”

Perez said Saturday that having one single-issue debate will lead to every debate becoming “a single issue debate in order to address the concerns,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“Frankly, as someone who worked for Barack Obama, the most remarkable thing about him was his tenacity to multitask, and a president must be able to multitask,” Perez told Florida activists while he was in Orlando for the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue gala.

In addition, Perez said in a series of tweets last week that he “personally told media partners seeking to host a 2020 primary debate how important it is for climate change to be debated during each and every debate.”

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Podlodowski, however, said she believes that taking the issue off the table too soon will lead to a missed opportunity to talk about the topic.

The resolution will be brought up at the end of this month during an executive member committee meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Podlodowski said. It will then go before the full DNC during its national meeting in San Francisco in August.

Progressive organizations, including MoveOn, the Sunrise Movement, Greenpeace, and others, have repeatedly called for a climate-only debate. At least 10 Democratic candidates have also endorsed a discussion focused on climate change, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Obama Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet,

Currently, Podlodowski’s resolution has more than 50 signatories, who are state party chairs and other DNC members, including Christine Pelosi, one of the nearly three dozen DNC members that represent the California Democratic Party and daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Christine Pelosi is co-sponsoring the resolution.

Pelosi, who has previously introduced resolutions focused on bringing discussion of climate change to the forefront of the DNC’s platform, said she understands the position Perez is taking. She said the national party does not want outside groups organizing or hosting debates that’s why the DNC will not allow any candidate who participates in a debate centered on a single issue that isn’t hosted by the committee to be involved in the party’s primary debates.

However, Pelosi also noted that there are some issues that take precedence over other policies and must be discussed.

“There are certain issues that rise above the others and are so intrinsically important to our grassroots, and to our base, and to our young people that they really want to see this full discussion,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY.

She added that if all the candidates who support the debate do go on to do a climate debate sponsored by a third party, the DNC couldn’t really exclude them all from the national party’s official primary debates.

“Rather than asking the candidates to dare the DNC, we thought, well, why don’t we work within the system to see if there is a popular way to get everybody a win,” she said.

“Don’t punish candidates who want to really go in depth on the questions behind what a green new deal looks like, what a climate action plan looks like, what it means to get to renewable by 2050,” she continued.

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A number of Democrats have already introduced climate policies. Inslee, who has been one of the most vocal candidates calling for a climate debate, has focused his entire campaign on discussing climate change. Warren introduced a proposal that she said would generate 1.2 million new jobs while also fighting climate change. Many candidates have also endorsed  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal in some way. 

Nathaniel Keohane, senior vice president and head of climate at the Environment Defense Fund, said that climate is going to be “essential to the economic growth story of the 21st Century” and that any presidential candidate should be talking about it even if there is not a specific debate surrounding that topic.

“Whether or not the DNC decides to schedule a special climate debate, which I certainly think would be merited, but regardless of that, it shouldn’t be on the sidelines,” he told USA TODAY. Keohane previously served in the Obama administration, where he was special assistant to the president for energy and environment on the National Economic Council and the Domestic Policy Council.

“It shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought,” he said, adding that climate would often come up as a sideline issue in the past. “It should be front and center in everything the candidates are talking about across the board in terms of how they’re going to build a strong American economy, how they’re going to build global American leadership in the world, and how they’re going to protect the health and welfare and the interest of the American people.”

Christine Pelosi said that she hopes young people will help push the DNC to at least allow a third party not affiliated with a campaign to a host a climate debate.

“You got all these young people who are like I don’t even care about politics but I care about this, so why not give them an opportunity to tune in, which is what they want,” she said. “We still have hope.”

Podlodowski also said she believes that if the national committee does not move forward with a climate debate, that decision could help President Donald Trump win re-election.

“I just think that rigidity on behalf of the DNC with this issue, particularly among younger voters,” she said, “not taking this on is the wrong tactic and it is the sort of thing that allows Donald Trump to win.”

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