Democrat John Edwards and Republican John McCain received endorsements Sunday from two national environmental groups that highlighted their commitment to ending global warming.
Edwards won the backing of Friends of the Earth Action, the San Francisco-based political arm of Friends of the Earth. Republicans for Environmental Protection endorsed McCain for the second time. The group also backed his 2000 campaign.
In endorsing Edwards, the president of Friends of the Earth Action said he was particularly impressed by how early in the campaign Edwards laid out proposals to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, push for a global climate change treaty and create 1 million new jobs by investing in clean, renewable energy.
In doing so, Edwards has pushed other candidates to either match or improve upon his ideas, said Brent Blackwelder, who announced the endorsement with Edwards at a house party in Dover, New Hampshire.
"That leadership right away suggested to us that he had a distinguishing feature," Blackwelder said.
Edwards said he would make fighting climate change a central part of his environmental agenda.
"It is a crisis by any possible measure," he said. The 2004 vice-presidential nominee also praised former Vice President Al Gore, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week for his work on global warming.
"It's not as hard today to be an advocate on this issue because of his leadership," Edwards said of Gore.
Friends of the Earth Action also noted that unlike rivals Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, Edwards opposes building new nuclear power plants. The final factor was Edwards' courage to stand up to corporate lobbyists and special interests that have driven environmental policy in the Bush administration, he said.
Edwards, who does not take money from lobbyists, on Saturday proposed barring all candidates for federal office from accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists.
In Concord, the president of Republicans for Environmental Protection toured the New Hampshire Audubon Society with McCain before announcing the endorsement. Martha Marks said the Arizona senator was the only Republican candidate who understands the connection between conservative values and environmental stewardship.
"Senator McCain knows reducing our carbon pollution will improve our security, create jobs in profitable new industries, help farmers and clean up the air in our cities," she said. "More than any other Republican candidate, Senator McCain knows that the fight against climate change is a conservative cause."
McCain said he was honored to receive the endorsement and that he aspires to be as great a conservationist as his role model and fellow Republican, Theodore Roosevelt.
"We Republicans have to restore that reputation of being the lead party in conservation and preservation of our great national treasures," he said.
He said he has seen the effects of global warming firsthand in his travels to the Arctic circle and elsewhere.
"There's no doubt in my mind of the urgency of the issue of climate change," said McCain, who also supports a cap and trade system to lower emissions.