Candidates Talk Climate Change

Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich spoke of the urgency of the combating climate change and how they would best address the issues as president Saturday in Los Angeles.

Rep. Kucinich, D-Ohio, broke the ice, shall we say, as first to speak at the Global Warming and America's Energy Future Presidential Forum -- the such first forum to solely focus on energy and global warming. He touted the fact that his environmental consciousness is well documented in his own life.

"A little home in Cleveland, Ohio, 1,600 square feet, a small Ford Focus that gets about you know, 30-something miles to a gallon, a vegan diet that is compassionate and mindful and respectful of the environment," said Kucinich. "If you want a leader who can reach out and lift this planet up, then we have to look at how you live. Because you can talk the talk but do you walk the walk?"

Each candidate was given 10 minutes to address the audience, and then came a question-and-answer session.

Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., had a bit of a noisy appearance from start to finish. While being introduced, she was booed by a few members in the audience. It's likely that the noise came from a group of activists from Code Pink who later heckled Clinton while she was answering questions. Before they were removed from the Wadsworth Theater, an unmoved Clinton asked, "Were you invited to speak here this afternoon?"

Nonetheless, Clinton was able to put across her plan for combating climate change, citing her three major goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050, cutting foreign oil imports by two thirds by the year 2030, and moving from a carbon-based economy to a green economy.

"From the day I take office, as of noon on Jan. 20, 2009, I will issue an executive order that every new federal building has to be carbon neutral from design to construction," promised Clinton.

"I have proposed a $50 billion strategic energy fund to double investment in energy research," she said. "And you know how we'll pay for it? By taking the tax subsidies away from the oil companies. It's clear they don't use our money to make a high profit."

When a panelist asked Clinton why the last three presidents declared they would take on climate change yet "every one of these men" faced an uphill battle, Clinton interrupted. "That's the problem to start with, I think," adding she hoped she'd not only be the first female president, but also the first to deliver significant change.

Former Sen. John Edwards D-N.C., who hasn't been shy about his proposals for combating global warming or mixing it up with Clinton, said he'd fight entrenched interests.

"One of those truths is that the system in Washington is broken," he said, "and there is no better example of that than global warming."

"I see the oil and gas companies blocking progress by spending millions of dollars and deploying hundreds of lobbyists to Washington to make sure that America stays addicted to foreign oil and fossil fuels," he said.

Edwards, who laid out his energy plan last March, reiterated his proposals, calling for a cap on greenhouse gas pollution starting in 2010, and reducing greenhouse emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

"We need to lead the world to a new global climate treaty," said Edwards. "We need to meet the demand for more electricity through efficiency for the next decade, instead of producing more electricity. ... We need to create a 'New Energy Economy Fund' to support U.S. research and development in energy technology and other advances by auctioning off $10 billion in greenhouse pollution permits, and repealing $3 billion in subsidies for big oil companies."

All of the presidential candidates from both parties were invited to speak at the forum, sponsored by Grist and PRI's Living on Earth in partnership with the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

Clinton, Edwards and Kucinich derided Bush, saying his administration dismissed science.

Their remarks came as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their fourth and final report. U.N. Secretary-General Ban warned, "Only urgent, global action will do."