CNN's climate crisis town hall

By Meg Wagner, Dan Merica, Gregory Krieg and Eric Bradner, CNN

Updated 3:25 AM ET, Thu September 5, 2019
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8:50 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden explains why he doesn’t support a nationwide fracking ban

From CNN's Dan Merica

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would not support a nationwide fracking ban on Wednesday -- in part because he doesn’t believe any measure banning fracking could pass -- but the Delaware Democrat said he does support stopping all “oil drilling or gas drilling on federal lands.”

Biden’s position is the most common Democratic position, but other candidates in the race -- like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker -- have pushed for a nationwide fracking ban.

Biden, in response to a question about fracking in Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday that the federal government has “less latitude in what we say we can and cannot do” on state lands.

“I think we should in fact be looking at what exists now and making a judgment whether or not the those in fact that are there, those wells that are there, whether or not they are dangerous, whether or not they have already done the damage,” Biden said.

Biden said the federal government “could pass national legislation” but that he doesn’t believe there are enough votes “to get it done.”

8:57 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden to "look at" fundraiser’s background after being confronted

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Former Vice President Joe Biden suggested he might reconsider a fundraiser scheduled for Thursday after being confronted and told about its host's connections to the energy industry.

Andrew Goldman is a co-founder of Western LNG, a company whose biggest project is a floating liquefaction facility for natural gas off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. He does not have day-to-day responsibilities with the company, but an audience member asked Biden if his willingness to accept Goldman’s help would compromise his pledge to fight climate change.

Goldman also worked a Biden adviser before the former vice president took that office in 2009.

"I didn't realize he does that," Biden said after being asked initially about Goldman’s role and said, citing SEC filings, that he did not believe attending the fundraiser would be in violation of a pledge to refuse fossil fuel energy executive donations. "I'm going to look at what you just told me and find out if that's accurate."

Immediately after the exchange, Biden spokeswoman Symone Sanders disputed the description of Goldman, claiming he "isn't a fossil fuel executive. He's not involved in the day to day operation. He's not on the board of the company, nor the board of the portfolio company."

She also echoed Biden, in a subsequent tweet, denying that the former vice president has not violated his pledge to reject donations from fossil fuel executives.

“What I was told by my staff is that he did not have any responsibility related to the company,” Biden said later. “He was not on the board, he was not involved at all in the operation of the company at all.

But he said his campaign would review its information to be sure.

“If that turns out to be true, then I will not in any way accept his help,” Biden said. “We go through every contribution make sure that we are not accepting money from people we said we wouldn't, or we shouldn’t.”

8:54 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden promises "there would be no empty chair" in climate talks

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Former Vice President Joe Biden said “there would be no empty chair” in leading climate talks among the world’s most powerful nations if he is elected president.

His comment, at CNN’s town hall on the climate crisis Wednesday, was a shot at President Donald Trump, who skipped last month’s G7 Summit climate meeting.

He said since Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord, “there is no leadership” on climate matters.

“There would be no empty chair. I would be pulling the G7 together. I would be down with the president of Brazil saying, enough is enough,” Biden said, referring to the burning Amazon rain forest.

The former vice president pitched himself as an experienced deal-maker on the national and international stages.

“What we have to do is we have to understand that you need to be able to bring people and countries and interests together to get anything done. Plans are great, but executing on those plans is a very different thing,” he said.

8:27 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Biden tells 19-year-old he's never put big businesses above young voters

Katie Eder and Biden
Katie Eder and Biden CNN

A 19-year-old activist asked former Vice President Joe Biden how young voters can trust him to to prioritize their futures.

She asked: "Older generations have continued to fail our generation by repeatedly choosing money and power over our lives and our futures, so how we can trust you to put us — the future — over the wants of large corporations and wealthy individuals?"

Biden quickly responded: "Because I've never done it."

He continued: 

"I've never made that choice. My whole career. Simple. I mean, look, I got involved back in 1986. I introduced a climate change plan that was said to be a game changer. I've been involved in everything from making sure we go with back in the '90s, everything I've done has been done to take on the polluters and take on those who are, in fact, decimating our environment. I mean, it's been my career." 

A little context: Earlier this year, before Biden released a climate plan, Biden faced criticism from progressives who argued the former vice president would not go far enough to combat climate change.

They were citing a Reuters report that quoted a Biden adviser who touted the need to find a "middle ground" approach as progressives push the Green New Deal.

8:02 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Joe Biden is up now


Former Vice President Joe Biden is now taking questions at CNN's climate crisis town hall.

At total tonight, 10 Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage.

7:59 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

How Klobuchar wants to tap into American's competitive spirits to get them to use less energy

From CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said said that one way to get people to use less energy is to send out electric bills with a neighborhood ranking because it comes with a sense of competitive accomplishment. 

"What really worked to get people to get their energy usages down and turning off the lights off — not necessarily the total, when they saw what their neighbor did, they're real competitive. Now, they don't see the names of the neighbor, but they see the averages are and they think, 'Well, I can do better than this,'" she said.

This is right out of environmental lawyer's Cass Sunstein school of thought: that government should harness human nature to "nudge" better social behavior. It seems quaint but a massive retooling of world consumption might never happen without some of this kind of psychology. 

8:01 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Klobuchar: Restore methane regulations rolled back by Trump

Amy Klobuchar isn’t ready to ban fracking, but on Wednesday night, she called for a reversal to Trump administration's move to rollback regulations on methane emissions.

“I see natural gas as a transitional fuel, it is better than oil, but it's not nearly as good as wind and solar,” Klobuchar said, before adding that she was concerned by one of the most dangerous byproducts of its extraction.

She also pledged to review every fracking permit during the first 100 days of her administration and, earlier, denounced White House deregulation of methane emissions.

“One of the things, among many, that the Trump administration has done that is so bad for our environment, that I would reverse, is their changes to methane rules and methane emission," she said. "That is very dangerous.”

Klobuchar also said she would hope to “go to carbon neutral by 2050,” though she would push for a faster transition. That means no new coal plants and a new look at nuclear plants if safe storage could be assured.

The fight to combat climate change should be treated like the space race or the civil rights movement, Klobuchar said, moments “where our country came together and said, we're going to solve something.”

7:36 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Klobuchar calls the Amazon fires a tragedy

Sen. Amy Klobuchar was just asked about the wildfires in the Amazon, the Brazilian rainforest that is home to at least 10% of the world's biodiversity, produces 20% of the world's oxygen and helps regulate the temperature of the whole planet.

Environmental organizations and researchers say the wildfires were set by cattle ranchers and loggers who want to clear and utilize the land, emboldened by the country's pro-business president.

Klobuchar called the fires a "tragedy" and outlined some ways she'd try to combat the issue.

"And being part of the international climate change agreement again, being able to have some clout and leverage with allies will make a big difference in trying to put pressure and working with non-profits and other groups all over the world to try to stop this," she said.

"Because we are at a point — between the fires and some of the decisions for deforestation — that it's very dangerous to our climate, and I think just shows how everything is interrelated," she added.

7:24 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019

Klobuchar lays out her first seven days in presidential office

From CNN's Dan Merica

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar laid out on Wednesday how her first week in the White House would take on the climate crisis.

On her first day in office, Klobuchar said she would reenter the Paris climate accord. On the second day, Klobuchar said, she would bring back clean power rules that President Barack Obama pushed but were rolled back by President Donald Trump. And on day three, she would do the same with gas mileage standards for US car companies.

While Klobuchar said she would take action without Congress, she said the rest of her first week in office would focus on “sweeping legislation” to tackle the issue.

“On day 7, you’re supposed to rest,” Klobuchar said, “but I don’t think I will.”

“So that’s the first seven days,” she continued. “And from there you make this a top priority to get this passed.”