Democratic US Senate candidates talk climate change at Austin forum

Koshik Mahapatra

Three Democratic candidates running to unseat United States Sen. John Cornyn gathered at the University Presbyterian Church on Monday to share their plans to address climate change.

The Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Texas Impact, Environment Texas and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club hosted the event, which they said was the state’s only candidate forum on climate change occurring before the March 3 primary. The event is also a part of Texas Impact’s inaugural Texas Interfaith Advocacy Conference, which allows attendees to interact with political issues and their elected officials.

The candidates, which include former Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards, state Sen. Royce West and labor organizer Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, said there is a moral responsibility and economic opportunity in confronting the climate crisis.

“It used to be the case where you get in a setting like this and you had to debate whether climate change was real,” Edwards said. “We’re past that … because we had to see and feel the implications for ourselves (in Texas).”

Edwards said she supports investing in renewable energy sources and green infrastructure with enhanced resilience against natural disasters.

West said his decades of legislative experience would deliver a solution with bipartisan support from both the public sector and private industry leaders.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to believe that we will ever end up with a fossil fuel-free economy, but what I do think is that we can position the industry leaders here in Texas also to make certain that … the dominant energy will be renewable,” West said. 


Ramirez said she supports a Green New Deal to help Texas achieve net-zero emissions.  

“If you read the Green New Deal … it simply states that we’re going to rise to the scale and ambition necessary and not leave any oil and gas worker behind,” Ramirez said. “We need the full scale and investment of the federal government to tackle climate change.” 

An increasing number of Texans say climate change is an important issue in determining who they vote for, according to an October 2019 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The poll found 72% of Texas voters who believe climate change is happening were either very worried or somewhat worried about it. 

“A candidate that denies climate change or doesn’t do anything about it … would definitely stand out in my mind as a negative,” economics junior Justin Van said.