During the 2016 election cycle, fossil fuel companies paid over $260 million in both campaign contributions and lobbying members of Congress. In exchange for their investments, these huge companies continue to be the recipients of billions of dollars in subsidies and far too many laws that benefit corporate polluters over common citizens.
Our planet is in desperate need of leaders who say no to fossil fuel money and plan for a fair, safe, renewable energy future for the masses, not just the powerful and wealthy. Climate leadership means categorically rejecting the fossil fuel industry’s dirty money. Advocates of the #NoFossilFuelMoney pledge view the signing of the pledge as key to this commitment.
We need political leaders at every level of government who truly care about protecting the health of our communities, climate and democracy. The vow states: “I pledge not to take contributions over $200 from oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, and PACs and instead prioritize the health of our families, climate, and democracy over fossil fuel industry profits.”
In contrast to the current Republican president, who mocks climate change as a farce, eighteen “major” Democratic presidential candidates (according to the New York Times‘ tracker of Presidential candidates) have already signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. Just two major Democratic candidates have not yet signed the pledge: Montana Governor Steve Bullock and former US Representative John Delaney. Since its establishment in 2017, more than 1,700 politicians across the US have signed the pledge.
This means they have adopted a policy to not knowingly accept contributions greater than $200 from the PACs, lobbyists or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas or coal, including major and independent oil and gas producers, natural gas distributors, oilfield services, as well as companies involved in equipment and exploration, petroleum refining and marketing, liquid propane and coal mining.
While there is a debate over whether the pledge is symbolic or has actual policy implications, the pledge’s popularity does highlight the fact that climate change has become a major campaign issue, arguably for the first time in history.
According to Stephen O’Hanlon of the Sunrise Movement, “The fact that nearly every Democratic candidate in the race has signed the pledge is a clear signal of who the Democratic party stands for. This is the kind of principled stand that we need from Democratic leaders if they are going to motivate young people to turn out in record numbers in 2020 to defeat Trump.”
Candidates are aware of that reality. Climate change is a major concern for young people across the country, regardless of party affiliation. The younger generation is poised to make up a significant portion of voters in 2020. Millennials are surpassing Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest demographic. Furthermore, 10 percent of eligible voters next year will come from “Generation Z” (those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s).