Hilary Clinton’s choice of running mate, Tim Kaine, is good for the planet

Published by Conor Mulvihill on

                                                                                                                                                                                           26th of July 2016

Irish American senator Tim Kaine was chosen recently by Hilary Clinton to be her running partner. The Vice Presidency is the second highest position within the executive branch of the United States after the President. The Vice President has a strong influence over the decisions made by the President. This has a significant affect over what happens within the US and abroad including Ireland. Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump stated that he doesn’t believe in climate change, that we should invest more jobs in nonrenewable energy industries such as coal and that he will withdraw the US from the Paris agreement if he is elected. Without the United States’s participation in the Paris Agreement it would essentially become worthless and significantly undermine global climate action. This demonstrates how much the US election resonate for us back at home particularly when it comes to environmental issues.

The Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton wants to invest in infrastructure to protect communities at risk from rising seas. She also wants to create a task force to protect low-income and rural communities that face environmental risks. This could explain why she has chosen Tim Kaine to be her Vice President.

Kaine successfully, protected 400,000 acres of land from development as governor of Virginia.  He voted against passage of legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Kaine’s conservation efforts focused on conservation easements substantial Virginia land preservation tax credit encouraged easements. From 2004 to 2009, the Virginia Outdoors Convention protected more land than it had in the previous forty years, a fact touted by Kaine as his term drew to a close. As governor, Kaine established the Climate Change Commission, a bipartisan panel to study climate change issues. The panel was shuttered under Kaine’s Republican successor, Governor Robert. f. McDonnell, but was revived under his successor, Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Kaine is in support of the development of solar energy and wind turbines along with making coal energy production cleaner, he emphasised how necessary it is “to convert coal to electricity with less pollution than we do today.” He has criticized those who “frame the debate as a conflict between an economy and the environment,” saying that “protecting the environment is good for the economy.” Kaine co-sponsored the Advanced Clean Coal Technology Investment in Our Nation (ACCTION) Act, legislation to increase investment in clean coal technologies.

Kaine has emphasised the scientific consensus on climate change, and in a 2014 Senate speech he criticized climate change deniers, including those who “may not deny the climate science, but … deny that the U.S. can or should be a leader in taking any steps” to address the issue.

He has highlighted his concern over sea level rise (a major consequence of climate change) and in particular its effect on coastal Virginia. In 2014, he partnered with two Virginia Republicans U.S. Representative Rob Whitman and Scott Rigell—to hold a conference on sea-level rise and “local adaptation efforts to protect military installations in the Hampton Roads area.’’

However Kiane has  also supported opening Virginia’s coast to offshore oil drilling along with supported offshore drilling and in the Atlantic saying, “I have long believed that the moratorium on offshore drilling, based on a cost-benefit calculation performed decades ago, should be re-examined.’’ Even fossil fuel interests have taken a liking to him. “We’re encouraged by the reasonable approach he’s taken on oil and natural gas, that he hasn’t been swayed by politics and ideology,” Miles Morin, executive director of the Virginia Petroleum Council. Kaine also supported a coal fired power plant project in Wise County, clashing with environmentalists who opposed the project. Of course, being on good terms with the fossil fuel industry is a cause for concern among some greens. “If Kaine is the pick, Hillary will need to stake out much clearer positions on drilling, fracking, and new fossil fuel infrastructure,” said350.org policy director Jason Kowalski. R.L. Miller, Climate Hawks Vote co-founder and a chair of California Democrats’ environmental caucus, responded to Kaine’s record with a resounding, “meh,” citing his mixed record on fossil fuels as why he’s a bad pick to lure progressive Democrats to the polls.

There are certain areas where Kaine is lacking when it comes to improving the environment, however overall he will make a positive contribution to America’s environment which will hopefully resonate back to Kaine’s ancestral homeland in Ireland and throughout the rest of the world if Hilary is elected.  Kaine opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, supports Clean energy, has worked to make coastal communities prepare for climate change and sea-level rise. Based on his votes on environmental issues in the Senate, the League of Conservation Voters has given Kaine a 88% score for 2015, and a 91% lifetime score. So it’s clear to see that despite a few issues Tim Kaine becoming US Vice President overall would be great for the environment in the US and around the world.

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Conor Mulvihill

Conor is Communications Assistant with the Irish Environmental Network. His background is in science and he has a masters in international relations.