Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley Sprint to Hillary Clinton's Left on Climate

Sanders signaled that he will promote the movement to dump stocks in the fossil-fuel industry.

Hillary Clinton's rivals for the Democratic nomination are finding new ways to outflank the front-runner on the left by showing their bona fides on climate change.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been surging in the polls, offered full-throated support for the movement among some universities, churches, foundations, and other institutional investors to dump their holdings in coal and oil-and-gas companies.

The senator from Vermont signaled he intends to weave the issue into his campaign. "I suspect that I will," Sanders told National Journal when asked if he will raise divestment on the stump.

"I think that what Bill is doing is exactly right," Sanders said, referring to Vermont climate activist Bill McKibben, whose group,, is at the forefront of the divestment movement. "It is very much the equivalent of what many of us did during the era of apartheid in South Africa when we urged disinvestment."

Both Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley have agreed to a challenge from the lefty magazine The Nation not to take any contributions from fossil-fuel companies. (Although given their records on oil and gas drilling, it is unlikely that major fossil-fuel companies would support their campaigns.)

350 Action, which is's political arm, said the pledges "ratchet up pressure on Hillary Clinton to take a position on the corrosive influence of fossil-fuel money in elections, and respond to the pledge herself."

A Clinton aide did not immediately respond to a question about the pledge or her position on the divestment movement.

But the pledges, and Sanders backing of divestment—a movement active on many college campuses—signals how the two long-shot candidates are staking out a more aggressive posture on climate than Clinton has to date.

Sanders and O'Malley already both oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline, while Clinton has declined to take a position on the proposed project that came under State Department review while she was secretary (and remains under review to this day).

Sanders has long been among the Senate's most outspoken advocates on climate change, and he has sponsored legislation to impose a tax on carbon emissions. O'Malley, for his part, offered a wide-ranging climate and energy plan last month that rejects offshore drilling, would expand EPA's carbon emissions standards beyond power plants, and calls for obtaining all the nation's electric power from renewable sources by 2050.

Clinton has not yet spelled out her climate and energy platform. In her formal launch speech last month, the Democratic front-runner talked up renewable energy, called climate change "one of the defining threats of our time," and offered a small dose of policy, saying the U.S. should use "additional fees and royalties from fossil-fuel extraction to protect the environment."