“This planet is on fire and we have to have a debate on how to put it out,” the Democratic presidential candidate and longtime champion of combating climate change told reporters.
And Inslee warned that if the DNC doesn’t drop its opposition to a climate change-only debate, he will “be talking to the other candidates” who agree with him and “we will pursue what other options we can make.”
Inslee made his comments Wednesday while campaigning in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the race for the White House.
Inslee, a long-shot for the nomination in an historically large field of two-dozen candidates, has been aggressively and relentlessly urging the DNC and the national party committee’s chairman Tom Perez to hold a climate change debate.
Perez reportedly told activists who confronted him at a party gathering in Florida this past weekend that holding such a debate was “just not practical.”
Inslee, firing back, added “I’ll tell you what’s impractical. It’s to be underwater, under eight feet of water as a farmer in Iowa. To have your town burned down in Paradise, California.”
And the governor emphasized that “there’s 12 debates. One of them ought to be dedicated to this effort. I’m not just saying that. Hundreds of thousands of Democrats are. It’s the right thing to do and I hope the party will reconsider.”
“There are nine state party chairs who are going to bring a resolution at the next executive committee to make sure this gets done,” he noted.
And Inslee pointed to numerous rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden, the clear front-runner right now in the Democratic nomination race, who’ve joined his calls for a climate change debate.
“There are about 14 of the candidates, including the former vice president. The former vice president said we need a debate on this yesterday. So I would encourage the chair of the party to listen to the former vice president and hundreds of thousands of grassroots folks and party chairs and me and make sure this gets a full and fair debate,” he said.
Perez, in a Medium post on Tuesday, defended his climate change record while steering the DNC the past two years.
“Climate change is an urgent threat to our nation and our planet,” he wrote. “It imperils our children and grandchildren’s future, and it disproportionately affects our most vulnerable communities. That’s why, beginning in 2017, I made clear to our media partners that the issue of climate change must be featured prominently in our debates. That didn’t happen in 2016 — and it was wrong.”
But in explaining his opposition to Inslee’s push, Perez said “if we change our guidelines at the request of one candidate who has made climate change their campaign’s signature issue, how do we say no to the numerous other requests we’ve had? How do we say no to other candidates in the race who may request debates focused on an issue they’ve made central to their own campaigns?”
And he pointed to other options to spotlight the issue of climate change.
“Already, a number of organizations and networks have hosted their own issue-based forums and town halls — and I hope and expect more of these will take place in the coming months,” Perez emphasized. “Nobody is prohibited from participating in a DNC-sanctioned debate because they participated in a climate change forum or town hall.”
While Inslee twice gave Biden a shout-out for joining the calls for a climate change debate, he targeted the former vice president’s efforts on the issue.
Inslee, who last week said that Biden’s new proposal to produce net-zero emissions and reach a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050 “lack teeth,” criticized the former vice president again.
“I am the only candidate who has said this has to be the first priority of the United States. I am the only candidate who has said that. He (Biden) has not,” Inslee told Fox News.
“I’m the only candidate who has said we have to get off coal with … teeth in a law in the next ten years. He has not. I’m the only candidate who has said we need to make our transportation system electric in the next decade and a half. He has not,” Inslee spotlighted. “So there are some differences.”