Climate change is getting unprecedented attention from many of the 2020 presidential candidates. They are responding to the threats posed by a rapidly warming climate, the economic opportunities in switching to clean energy and the increasing concern of American voters: according to the Yale Program for Climate Change Communication, a record 69 percent of voting-age Americans say they are worried about climate change. Almost a third say they are “very worried,” by far the highest percentage ever recorded.
This blog is monitoring and collecting the candidates’ comments and positions on climate change and clean energy. Our goal is to highlight the issue’s growing salience and to provide a resource for the public. It will be updated regularly to capture additional comments as they occur and add candidates as they declare.
Each candidate’s profile is organized into four categories:
- Climate plans released by candidates (if any);
- Overview of how the candidate’s website talks about climate change;
- Public statements by the candidate on climate change; and
- Candidate’s history on climate action.
(This post was last updated on July 12, 2019.)
Announced Democratic Candidates for President (in alphabetical order):
- Sen. Michael Bennet (Climate plan)
- Joe Biden (Climate plan)
- Sen. Cory Booker
- Gov. Steve Bullock
- Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Sec. Julian Castro (Climate-related plan)
- Mayor Bill de Blasio
- Rep. John Delaney (Climate plan)
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
- Sen. Kamala Harris
- Gov. John Hickenlooper (Climate plan)
- Gov. Jay Inslee (Climate plan)
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Climate-related plan)
- Rep. Seth Moulton
- Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Climate plan)
- Rep. Tim Ryan
- Sen. Bernie Sanders
- Rep. Joe Sestak
- Tom Steyer
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Climate plan)
- Andrew Yang
Announced Republican Candidates for President (in alphabetical order):
Announced Democratic Candidates
Sen. Michael Bennet
Bennet released his climate plan on May 20. It has eight major components:
- Achieve 100% clean, net-zero emissions by 2050;
- Create 10 million zero-emission economy jobs in 10 years;
- Cut energy waste in half by 2040;
- Decarbonize agriculture with the help of farmers;
- Conserve 30% of America’s land and oceans by 2030;
- Create a climate bank to deploy $1 trillion on federal funds in infrastructure and clean technologies by 2030;
- Offer every household a “Climate X option” to purchase affordable zero-emissions electricity, zero-emissions vehicles, retrofits and decentralized renewable energy generation technology;
- Create a 2030 Climate Challenge to push states to develop strong climate plans.
Bennet’s campaign website states, “Michael will seize the economic opportunity of combating climate change—providing new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities to become more resilient and to invest in zero-emissions energy while growing the economy.”
Bennet has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
At an Iowa house party on February 23, 2019, while he was still exploring a run for president, he told those gathered, “I’m not going to pass judgment one way or another on the Green New Deal… But I am deeply concerned [about climate change].”
On February 26, 2019, Bennet told the Western Wire, “We owe the American people a durable solution to address climate change, not one that whipsaws back-and-forth with changing political winds. The Green New Deal continues a much-needed conversation on how combating climate change and creating jobs are not at odds with one another. I spent the last year talking to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in Colorado about how climate change is making it harder for them to hand their family farms to their children and grandchildren. I’m going to continue talking to these communities and more to identify what’s possible to address this critical issue.”
In the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, Bennet was one of two candidates on stage who said climate change would be their top issue upon assuming office.
In 2017 Bennet wrote an op-ed in USA Today urging his party to reconsider its approach to climate change.
“We should recognize that many communities now rely on energy production for their economic lifeblood. It is not enough to call for less coal or oil without having meaningful work to replace lost jobs. For someone who earned $80,000 in the energy sector, working in fast food or attending a failed job training program offers little solace. Pretending otherwise leads many Americans to conclude that Democrats don’t understand their challenges, or even worse, that we don’t care.”
“Similarly, when Democrats oppose natural gas, we fail to appreciate both its importance to small town economies and its pivotal role in reducing coal production. The transition to clean energy will not happen overnight. Saying no to responsible production of natural gas — which emits half the carbon of the dirtiest coal and is the cleanest fossil fuel — surrenders progress for purity.”
“We also need to connect climate change to everyday lives. Concern about melting ice caps and endangered species is justified, but it has little resonance beyond our cities and coasts. On the other hand, every farmer and rancher in Colorado understands that persistent droughts and wildfires directly threaten their business and way of life. Likewise, many in Colorado know that warming temperatures endanger our skiing, fly fishing and outdoor recreation. If we ignore these economic realities in our climate debate, we will struggle to break the gridlock in Washington…. To break the impasse, we have to learn from our mistakes. That means reaching the small towns, farmers, ranchers and workers who see the dangers of climate change, but who have tuned out. It means choosing arguments that broaden our coalition instead of shrink it.”
On June 4, Biden released his $1.7 trillion “Clean Energy Revolution” climate plan on his campaign’s website. Overall, his plan has 5 key goals:
- Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050;
- Make a historic investment of $400 billion over 10 years in energy and climate research and innovation, as well as clean and resilient infrastructure and communities;
- Recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change and lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets;
- Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities;
- Fulfill our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth.
In a video accompanying the plan’s launch, Biden tells the camera, “As President, I will lead America and the world, not only to confront the crisis in front of us but to seize the opportunities it presents. I’ll use every authority available to me to drive progress, and I will not accept half measures, because making these revolutionary changes is going to take an incredible commitment at all levels. I am absolutely confident that’s what the American people want to do and we can meet this challenge.”
Biden’s campaign website describes how, on day one, “Biden will sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track. And, he will demand that Congress enacts legislation in the first year of his presidency that:
- establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025,
- makes a historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation,
- incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.”
It also says, “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected.”
Biden has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
In a January 24 address to the US Conference of Mayors, Biden said,
“The threat posed by climate change is existential…. EPA has spoken, they’ve laid all this out. Our scientists have spoken, there’s no dispute about this among scientists. Since when did we become science deniers? The United Nations told us, whether you agree with the exact number, that we have 12 years to act before it’s irreversible. So say it’s 10 years or 20 years. Nobody is disputing if we fail to act we’re going to have a more serious problem… The point is this is really important, and it’s within our power… We need leaders who understand this is the most urgent priority facing the nation and we’ll be judged by our children and grandchildren on what we do today.”
“Ten years ago we knew we needed a green revolution. We understood the urgency in terms of people’s health, in terms of economic growth, in terms of people’s lives. And with you all we put the country on a path!… There’s no reason that by 2025 all of North America can’t get half its electricity from non-polluting sources. It’s within our grasp, but for special interests! We need to reset these goals, for our children and our grandchildren. The administration has walked away, but there’s no reason we can’t pull ourselves back on the path.”
On May 10, Reuters reported that Biden’s team was “crafting a climate change policy he hopes will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump…carving out a middle ground approach” that would likely include “nuclear energy and fossil fuel options like natural gas.”
Biden’s team quickly responded, saying, “Reuters got it wrong. Joe Biden has called climate change a ‘existential threat,’ and we look forward to discussing his plan to address it in a meaningful and lasting way in the coming weeks.”
The candidate himself wrote in response, saying, “I’m proud to have been one of the first to introduce climate change legislation. What I fought for in 1986 is more important than ever — climate change is an existential threat. Now. Today. We need policies that reflect this urgency. I’ll have more specifics on how America can lead on climate in the coming weeks.”
On May 13 at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, Biden spoke about the Reuters article and his legacy on climate:
“We need an environmental revolution. I said back in 1987 in a floor speech when they passed one of my bills, I said we have an existential threat! We have a situation where if we don’t act quickly we’re going to lose basically everything we have. And that’s exactly the case, it’s even more urgent now. We do need to finish this green revolution in a way that’s rational, that we can afford, and get it done now.”
At his launch rally on May 18 in Philadelphia, Biden talked about the importance of addressing climate change:
“Folks, the greatest challenges we face in the future will be over technology, intellectual property, clean energy, a warming planet. There’s not a single thing that building a wall or imposing a tariff can solve on any of these issues. Folks, we need a 21st century strategy for America.”
“There’s not much time left, we need a clean energy revolution, we need it now, we have to start now, we have to build on what we’ve already built. And by the way, we have to stop thinking that clean energy and job creation don’t go together. They do! They do! We need to set the most aggressive goals possible, but folks, we have to work together to get it done.”
“If you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate proposal is: Beat Trump. Beat Trump.”
In the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, Rachel Maddow asked Biden what steps he could take to address the climate crisis without the support of congress. Biden said,
“I would immediately insist that we build 500,000 recharging stations throughout the united states of America, working with governors, mayors, and others so we can go to a full electric vehicle future by the year 2030. I would make sure that we invested $400 million in new science and technology to be the exporter of the green economy and create millions of jobs. I would immediately rejoin the Paris climate accord, and I would up the ante in that accord…. We have to have someone who knows how to corral the rest of the world, bring them together and get something done like we did in [the Obama-Biden] administration.”
Biden introduced a bill in 1986 that would have established a presidential task force on climate change.
Sen. Cory Booker
Booker has not released any climate plans to date.
Booker’s campaign website says that he “is committed to addressing climate change with an eye toward its impact on vulnerable communities.” In a section devoted to Climate Change and Environmental Justice, Booker enumerates twelve environmental policy priorities he will pursue once he becomes president, including:
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord;
- Undo the damage the Trump Administration has done at the Environmental Protection Agency and hold polluters accountable;
- Work to implement a Green New Deal;
- Put a moratorium on drilling on our public lands;
- Reauthorize and triple the Superfund tax on chemical and oil companies;
- Increase fees on coal mine operators to pay for the cleanup of abandoned mines.
- Protect marginalized communities suffering from environmental injustices by increasing staffing at the EPA’s Environmental Justice Office and the External Civil Rights Enforcement Office;
- Step up efforts to defend communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities by doubling staffing in all EPA enforcement offices.
- Safeguard the basic human right to safe drinking water;
- End the plague on communities caused by lead paint;
- Stop polluting companies from evading responsibility for environmental cleanups;
- Raise the standards for granting or renewing Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act Permits.
Booker has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
Booker released a statement upon the release of Sen. Ed Markey’s Green New Deal resolution on February 7, saying,
“Climate change is a pressing and serious environmental and economic crisis that threatens the way of life for our kids and grandkids. This challenge must be met with a commitment from the federal government that is commensurate with the level of commitment we saw in this country during the original New Deal. And that’s exactly the type of determination this proposal brings. Communities of color, low-income communities, indigenous communities and our family farmers are on the front lines of climate change, and I’m particularly encouraged that this blueprint addresses climate change in a way that promotes both economic and environmental justice.”
At a campaign stop in Mason City, Iowa on February 8, Booker was asked about the Green New Deal. He responded by saying,
“We are at a really difficult point in human history. Scientists now are coming to a consensus around the planet that if we allow temperatures to rise to a certain level it could have catastrophic impact – literally trillions of dollars hits to our economy, the most vulnerable people suffering. And doing nothing is not an option right now because our planet is in peril. And so the question now is what is the United States of America going to do? Is it going to lead the planet, in terms of dealing with this crisis? Or is it going to pull back from global leadership when we are the biggest economy on planet earth? I believe that America should lead and it should lead boldly. And so the Green New Deal is this bold idea that we need to lean in to do something about climate change and we need to start taking dramatic efforts to invest in green energy and not let other countries beat us to the jobs of the future and the green technology. We should make sure that our communities get jobs doing those things, and make sure that the federal government… make sure that there’s job opportunities for folks.”
At his campaign launch rally in Newark on April 13, Booker told the crowd, “We won’t wait to meet the challenge and the crisis of climate change. We don’t have any other choice! We will build a clean energy economy, we will hold big polluters accountable, and ensure that every child can drink the water from their sink and breath the air in their neighborhood without getting sick.”
Booker was one of four candidates in the first Democratic presidential debate on June 26 to name climate change as the top geopolitical threat facing the United States.
Booker was one of the first prospective candidates to support a Green New Deal, tweeting his support on December 14, 2018 by saying, “We must take bold action on climate change & create a green economy that benefits all Americans…. Excited to support a #GreenNewDeal.”
He was one of three co-sponsors on Jeff Merkley’s 100 by 50 Act in 2017.
Booker has argued in the past for expanding nuclear power (nuclear power provides over a third of New Jersey’s energy). NRDC experts Dale Bryk and Jackson Morris wrote about why nuclear is the wrong approach to reducing emissions and how best to approach transitioning away from it here.
Gov. Steve Bullock
Bullock has not released any climate plans to date.
Bullock’s website briefly mentions, “There are a lot of reasons to protect our environment and tackle climate change,” and highlights Bullock’s outdoorsmanship.
In an interview with Montana Public Radio on the day of his launch, Bullock was asked about his position on the Green New Deal. He responded,
“I think that the Green New Deal is a sort of resolution, aspiration in Washington D.C., and I’m less interested in signing on to resolutions that probably won’t take meaningful steps going forward in Washington D.C. than what are the tangible things that we could start doing now.”
“we in Montana… see the impacts of climate change happening and we do have to take bold action. I think that there are steps that you can take and take even from the beginning. I mean, day one rejoining our global role in Paris…. Energy efficiency alone could address about 30% of the reductions that we would need to do; investing in technology. So I think there are a number of steps that you can take.”
On June 26 during a televised town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, Bullock was asked about his plan to combat climate change and support rural farmers. He responded by saying, “We need to take immediate and durable steps. You’re seeing it here in Iowa with the flooding. I had 1.2 million acres burn two years ago. Fire seasons in the west are 78 days longer than when I was growing up. I think there are immediate steps you can take…
- Rejoining Paris and funding our commitments. We know that we can’t do this alone.
- Not even the auto industry was asking for these reductions in fuel emission standards. Putting those back in place.
- Ag has to be a partner in both reducing emissions and also in carbon capture. Making sure you’re not always planting every single field and incentivizing farmers to do that by investing in research and with things like the [Natural Resources Conservation Service] at the federal level. Some of the best conservationists I know in Montana are farmers and ranchers, because they need to preserve this land.
- At a higher level we know that IPCC says we need to be at net zero in the entire world by 2050. I think we can do it by 2040 or earlier, and it’s going to take both the will of Congress coming together and a strong executive to say we can’t wait another three decades.”
On July 1, Bullock was asked about his position on the Keystone XL pipeline. He responded, “if it’s done right, we can’t take it off the table.”
In a 2017 article on the impact of climate change on his state, Bullock said, “To not acknowledge or deal with our changing climate in a responsible way is shortsighted and dangerous,” adding, “there’s no way you’re going to flip a switch tomorrow, or [in] five years, and all of a sudden quit using coal or other fossil fuels for energy production. There’s no way you’re going to be able to do that in 15 or 20 years.”
On July 1, Bullock announced he was signing an executive order to create a council that will study how and when Montana can feasibly reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions. It also sets an interim goal of reaching carbon neutrality in the electricity sector by 2035. In his announcement, Bullock said in Montana,
“climate change is already impacting our way of life and our economy…. Our impacts are among the most pronounced in the entire country. Already temperatures have risen 3 degrees in Montana since 1950 on average, about twice the amount of the nation as a whole. We’ve also been experiencing transitions in our economy and our energy sector that are happening within our state’s borders, around the nation and indeed around the world…. Our state, and indeed our entire nation, needs Montana-focused solutions now more than ever.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg has not released any climate plans to date. However, on June 11 during a speech at Indiana University on foreign policy, Buttigieg described his approach to climate change, saying it includes,
- “a carbon tax and dividend to reorient our economy around a more sensible reward system….
- quadrupling our R&D to at least $25 billion a year leading the way on research into renewable energy, energy storage, and carbon storage….
- empowering rural america to be part of the solution, helping to unlock the potential of soil management and other 21st century farming techniques….
- And [offering] a new kind of support for cities and towns seeking to reduce their dependence on carbon.… seeing how cities are rising to meet this challenge, even as our respective national governments lag behind, I believe the US should foster not only international but subnational engagement to meet a challenge whose solutions could be as unifying as its threats are universal. We would do well to host a Pittsburgh summit of cities to form commitments to stand alongside the Paris framework from countries.”
On May 17, Buttigieg released a climate platform on his website in which he says his goal is to “Implement a Green New Deal with all available tools including a carbon tax-and-dividend for Americans, and major direct investment to build a 100% clean energy society.”
Buttigieg has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
On February 10, Buttigieg told Jake Tapper that he endorsed the Green New Deal resolution, saying, “I think it’s the right beginning. The idea that we need to race toward that goal and that we should do it in a way that enhances the economic justice and level of opportunity in our country, I believe that is exactly the right direction to be going in.”
On April 3, when a student at Northeastern asked him on why he supported the Green New Deal, erroneously claiming that it would ban cows, destroy and rebuild all buildings, and cost $93 trillion dollars, Buttigieg replied,
“I don’t believe in abolishing cows. The Green New Deal is a few pages of a framework. It’s not a fully designed plan. Here’s why I consider it important though to defend this framework, even though it’s more a set of goals than a set of answers as of now: when you think about [whether we] can get to zero carbon – or net-zero carbon, which is more realistic – by 2030 or not, I don’t view that as a decision that’s going to be made in Congress, in terms of whether that timeline is appropriate. I view it as a decision that’s already been made by science. In other words, the right year to achieve those carbon goals is yesterday. The only question is how fast can we do it. And part of that is a question of will! How far will we go? Will we increase R&D to make renewable energy more practical? Are we willing to implement a carbon tax that will force us to deal with the long term cost of carbon that we’re putting into the atmosphere? And I think retrofitting buildings is a great idea. I’m not saying we need to blow them all up and build them back, I do think we will create a lot of jobs while we’re at it in the building trades.”
In his announcement speech in South Bend, Indiana on April 15, Buttigieg said,
“Let’s pick our heads up to face what might be the greatest security issue of our time: climate change and climate disruption. No region of our country is immune to that threat. We’ve seen it in the floods in Nebraska, the tornadoes in Alabama, the hurricane in Puerto Rico and the fires in California…. Something is changing around us, and we’re not even having a contest over whose climate plan is better because only one side brought forth any plans at all! If you don’t like our plans on climate, fine! Show us yours! Our economy is on the line, our future is on the line, our lives are on the line, so let’s call it what it is: climate security, a life and death issue for our generation.”
In 2018, Buttigieg committed South Bend to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. “We are already seeing the effects of climate change on our residents and businesses,” Buttigieg said about the announcement. “We joined the Covenant because we are serious about ensuring South Bend is a healthy, prosperous place for the next several generations, and because we want South Bend to contribute to the global effort to protect the climate.”
Sec. Julian Castro
On June 18, Castro released a “People First Housing” plan that included a section related to climate change. In it, the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Obama frames the plan as part of a broader effort to “achieve net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, reduce U.S. emissions to at least half of 2005 emissions levels by 2030, and meet the promise of the Green New Deal.”
The plan has four key points:
- “Establish a $200 Billion Green Infrastructure Fund” that would “Support public transportation, energy efficiency building upgrades, climate resilience, a modernized energy grid that includes high-voltage direct current lines, energy storage, water conservation, public electric vehicle charging stations, and other investments through direct grants and concessional and non-concessional loans”;
- “Require climate sensitivity and ‘Carbon Scoring’ in future planning and government projects that would ensure any government project contributes towards meeting climate goals and sets benchmarks to reduce carbon impact and mitigate climate change, including net-zero carbon emission targets for new federal housing construction”;
- “Ensure zoning reforms enacted through this plan further climate goals through higher density housing, transit-oriented development, incorporating resilience in new developments, and other city planning practices that lower commute times, diminish reliance on personal vehicles, reduce destruction by natural weather events, and lower carbon emissions”;
- “Establish Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Assistance as a permanent program to help communities recover from natural disasters more effectively, and support long-term sustainable land use.”
Outside of his People First Housing plan, Castro’s campaign website does not include any references to climate change.
Castro has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
When Castro announced his candidacy on January 12, he made addressing climate change a key point in his speech:
“The biggest threat to our prosperity in the 21st century is climate change. Don’t let anybody tell you that we have to choose between growing our economy and protecting our planet. We can fight climate change and create great jobs in America. And here’s the thing: we don’t have a moment to waste. Scientists say that if we don’t get serious about this right now the consequences will be tragic. So we won’t wait. As president, my first executive order will recommit the United States to the Paris Climate Accord. We’re going to say no to subsidizing big oil and say yes to passing a Green New Deal.”
In the first Democratic presidential debate on June 26, Castro said,
“When I was HUD secretary we worked on the National Disaster Resilience Competition to invest in communities that were trying to rebuild from natural disasters in a sustainable way. That’s the way we’re going to make sure that we’re all safer in the years to come and combat climate change. And if I’m elected president, the first thing I would do… is sign an executive order recommitting us to the Paris Climate Accord.”
Later in the debate Castro was one of four candidates on stage to name climate change as the top geopolitical threat facing the United States.
As mayor of San Antonio, Castro pushed the local utility to shut down a 900-megawatt coal-fired power plant and to adopt a 20 percent renewable energy benchmark by 2020.
Mayor Bill de Blasio:
de Blasio has not released any climate plans to date.
de Blasio’s campaign website provides an overview of his climate policies as Mayor of New York City, but does not clarify what his approach to climate would be if elected president.
de Blasio has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
On March 13, 2019, de Blasio wrote in New York magazine about his plan to “climate-proof Lower Manhattan” and the need for a federal Green New Deal:
“This should be as much a national priority as a local one… But right now, cities like New York are facing down the greatest threat to our survival on our own. I don’t expect deniers like President Trump to come to the table on this. It’s on Democrats to put this front and center on our national agenda in a way we haven’t ever before. The coalescing agenda represented by the Green New Deal is our best shot. We not only need a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy that prevents the most cataclysmic consequences of global warming, we need real dollars and real planning for coastal protection to combat the consequences that are already inevitable. We need a Green New Deal that marches forward on both these fronts at the same time, and with equal urgency.”
In his announcement video on May 16, de Blasio said, “when we saw our national government walk away from the Paris Agreement, we doubled down.” The video cuts to a rally where de Blasio says, “this battle to save our Earth will be won or lost in our lifetime. There’s no second chance.”
On April 22, 2019, Mayor de Blasio unveiled his OneNYC 2050 initiative, a “bold and audacious plan to attack global warming on all fronts” which calls for New York City to be carbon neutral by 2050. Touted on its website as “New York City’s Green New Deal,” the plan, it comes on the heels of the city’s recently passed Climate Mobilization Act, which has also been referred to as a “Green New Deal for New York City.”
Rep. John Delaney
After announcing his run for president, Delaney was one of the original co-sponsors of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018, which NRDC experts David Doniger and Derek Murrow profiled here. In November he appeared on MSNBC to promote the bill, and upon being asked how climate change will feature in his presidential bid, he said “It’s a huge focus…. When I’m president I’m going to make sure we [pass a bill] just like this.”
Delaney released his climate plan on May 23. It has six areas of focus:
- Implement a carbon fee and dividend system that will reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2050;
- Promote negative emissions technology to capture the remaining 10%;
- Increase the federal renewable energy research budget 5-fold;
- Develop a challenge grant program to promote innovation and reduce emissions;
- Create a climate corps for national service;
- Build a new pipeline network to deliver captured CO2 to oil fields to enhance oil recovery and sequester captured carbon.
Delaney has made his support of a carbon tax one of his key platforms. “Putting a price on carbon is the most effective tool we have to tackle the massive threat of climate change,” he said in a press release in January. “A carbon tax will change behavior, spur massive new innovation in clean energy, and produce dividends that can be returned directly back to people.”
On February 12 during a visit to New Hampshire, Delaney poured cold water on the Green New Deal:
“I actually don’t think the Green New Deal is the way to go. The reason is that I want to do something about fixing climate change tomorrow. I don’t want to tie it to fixing health care…. If you tie climate change to universal healthcare then you’re actually making it five times harder to do anything on climate change!”
In the first Democratic presidential debate on June 26, Delaney said,
“I introduced the only bipartisan carbon tax bill in congress. All the economists agree that a carbon pricing mechanism works, you just have to do it right! You can’t put a price on carbon, raise energy prices, and not give it back to the American people. My proposal, which is put a price on carbon and give a dividend back to the American people, it goes out one pocket and in the other. I can get that passed my first year as president with a coalition of every Democrat in the Congress and the Republicans who live in coastal states. Republicans in Florida actually care about this issue. This has got to be our way forward.”
Delaney twice introduced the Tax Pollution, Not Profits Act (2015, 2017), a carbon tax bill that would have invested revenue in assisting displaced coal workers and lowering the corporate tax rate.
In 2016, Delaney filed a resolution alongside Senator Ben Cardin calling for the US to produce 50% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2030.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard has not released any climate plans to date.
Gabbard’s campaign website says that she “is a champion for protecting our environment, ensuring clean water and air for generations to come, investing in infrastructure and a green energy economy… Regime change wars are bankrupting our country and our moral authority. We need to redirect those resources into a renewable, sustainable economy that works for everyone and bring about an era of peace.”
Gabbard has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
Gabbard did not co-sponsor the Green New Deal resolution, citing its “vagueness” as her reason.
Gabbard has been one of the most outspoken voices for climate action in the House, sponsoring the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act in 2017 which aimed to transition the country to 100 percent clean energy by 2035. In a press release when the bill was introduced, Gabbard said,
“We must do all we can to end our addiction to fossil fuels and deploy the technologies that will put America on the path toward a clean, sustainable energy future today and in the years to come…. If the federal government does not act now and bring people together to solve this challenge, we will fail to protect future generations of Americans from the devastating economic and environmental consequences of climate change.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand has not released any climate plans to date.
Gillibrand’s campaign website says that “Climate change is the most serious threat to humanity today. We can’t afford to make this anything less than our top policy priority as a country, and it’s going to take bold, ambitious action to meet this challenge. Kirsten was one of the first supporters of the Green New Deal, a moonshot strategy that would take major steps to save our planet by investing in infrastructure, creating a green jobs economy and protecting clean air and water.
- We can get to a net-zero emissions economy by creating tax incentives to reward innovation and investment in renewable energy technology.
- We also need to put a price on carbon to steer companies away from fossil fuels and toward clean and renewable energy sources.
- We also need to rejoin the Paris climate agreement,
- stop the expansion of offshore drilling and drilling on public lands, and
- require companies to report climate risks.”
Gillibrand has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
In an interview with Jon Favreau on “Pod Save America” on January 22, several days after announcing her exploratory committee, she said she supported a Green New Deal. “I think we need a moonshot,” she explained.
“We need to tell the American people we are going to have a green economy in the next 10 years not because it’s easy but because it’s hard…. If you actually invest in wind turbines, in solar panels, in geothermal, in hydropower, in biofuels, if you use our ability to innovate and invent you will solve the problem of moving into a green energy economy. And by doing that you’re going to create a lot of jobs.”
“I [also] think you should put a price on carbon if you really want to attack global climate change effectively. You should put a price on carbon because what you’re doing is you’re incentivizing good behavior. You’re saying “If you want to be a polluter – fair enough, but you’re going to pay a lot more because you’re harming the rest of us and we’re going to have to pay all those hospital bills.”… you don’t get the benefit of being a big polluter unless you’re gonna pay for it. But if you’re going to be the inventor and the innovator who’s going to create the new energy efficient processes you get the benefit.”
Several days after that interview, Gillibrand sent a letter asking Environment and Public Works Committee chair John Barasso (R-WY) to hold hearings and consider legislation “designed [to] decarbonize our economy and get us to net-zero emissions by as close to 2050 as possible. This should include a mix of innovative solutions in transportation policy, climate-smart infrastructure and high-performance energy efficiency.”
Gillibrand co-sponsored Senator Markey’s Green New Deal resolution on February 7, saying in a statement,
“We can end the climate change crisis, we can dramatically modernize our economy, and we can create countless new jobs across the entire country that can’t be shipped overseas – but we can only do it if Congress seizes this opportunity and acts now, instead of wasting more time arguing about whether or not the problem is even real. We cannot wait another day. I urge all of my colleagues to fight with me for a Green New Deal that puts Americans to work to solve this extraordinary challenge.”
In her announcement video on March 17, after flashing a video of Donald Trump calling climate change “a hoax”, she shows photos of Sunrise Movement youth activists and says, “We launched ourselves into space and landed on the moon. If we can do that we can definitely… pass a Green New Deal.”
In her campaign launch speech on March 24 outside of Trump Tower, Gillibrand said,
“We need to treat global climate change like the existential threat that it is. We need to pass the Green New Deal! Let’s make this our generation’s moonshot. Addressing a global challenge of this urgency will take massive effort and transformational vision. Which is exactly why we should do it. Let’s invest in our crumbling infrastructure, create sustainable green jobs, and protect clean air and clean water as a human universal right.And I’d like to go further than others who support this plan. I’d also put a price on carbon to use market forces to steer companies away from fossil fuels towards clean, renewable energy. We can’t afford not to do this. We don’t have time to waste! John F. Kennedy said he wanted to put a man on the moon in the next 10 years not because it’s easy but because it’s hard. I believe we should look at global climate change exactly the same way. We should aspire to net zero carbon emissions in the next ten years not because it is easy but because it’s hard! And it is a challenge that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one that we will win.”
Gillibrand was a vocal proponent of the Kerry-Boxer cap-and-trade bill in 2009.
She also co-sponsored Sen. Merkley’s “Keep It In the Ground Act” in 2015 and 2017.
Sen. Kamala Harris
Harris has not released any climate plans to date.
Harris’s campaign website says
“We’re facing a climate crisis… Kamala knows we need to take on big oil companies to win this fight—and that’s exactly what she’s done throughout her career. From defending California’s landmark climate laws in court, to suing corporations like Chevron for damaging the environment, Kamala has stood up to special interests and won…. With American ingenuity and imagination, we can forge a Green New Deal to tackle the climate crisis, build a clean economy that creates good-paying jobs for the future, and confront environmental injustice head on. That means modernizing our transportation, energy, and water infrastructure. It means accelerating the spread of electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines. And it means making bold investments in innovative technologies to build a carbon free future.”
Harris has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
On January 28 at a CNN Town Hall in Des Moines Iowa, Harris responded to a question about the Green New Deal by saying,
“I support a Green New Deal and I will tell you why. Climate change is an existential threat to us and we’ve got to deal with the reality of it… we have policymakers who are in the pocket of big oil and big coal who don’t fully appreciate the fact that we are looking at something that is posing an existential threat to our country.”
In her CNN town hall on April 22, when a student asked why she supported the Green New Deal Harris responded,
“I support it because I to my core know that the climate crisis is representing an existential threat to who we are as human beings…. [The Green New Deal] appreciates that we need to take this seriously and the clock is ticking every day on this issue. Every day we fail to act will be to our collective consequence.The UN has already said over the next 12 years if we don’t get this straight there will be severe consequence. This is within our ability to do something about it!… We need to invest in electric cars. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. All of that is in the Green New Deal. And you know the greatest thing about it that I’m really enjoying? It’s causing these conversations to happen around the country in a way they have not been the past few years. And hopefully everyone is understanding that so much of the harm that we are doing to our planet is caused by us as human beings and the solutions will be because we change our behaviors without much requirement in change to lifestyle.”
As California’s attorney general, Harris launched an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil lied to the public and its shareholders about the risks posed by climate change.
Harris introduced the “Living Shorelines Act of 2018,” which would have directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make grants to communities to combat the impacts of sea-level rise and stronger storms.
Harris co-sponsored Senator Markey’s Green New Deal resolution, saying,
“Climate change is an existential threat, and we must deal with the reality of it. We must radically shift the conversation on how to address the climate crisis we are facing because we are running out of time to act. I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of this bold Green New Deal resolution and look forward to working with my colleagues to craft policies to protect our environment, create jobs to fuel a clean economy, and build a sustainable and equitable future.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper
On June 14, Hickenlooper released his plan to address climate change. His plan centers around three main planks:
- Global leadership toward even bolder climate change goals: After rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement on day one, Hickenlooper “will build momentum, trust and collaboration with our global partners. He will do this in part by committing to mobilizing, together with other developed nations, $100 billion each year in climate financing for developing countries, a key commitment under the Paris Agreement”;
- A market-based and job-creating clean energy plan for America: Hickenlooper “will implement a carbon tax… The revenue [of which] will be returned directly to American taxpayers, more than offsetting any increase in energy costs.” He will also allocate “$200 billion for investments to revolutionize America’s transportation system, invest in renewable energy sources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, plus $150 billion to make America’s electric grid more reliable, secure, efficient and resilient”;
- A science-based, fact-based national call to action: Hickenlooper will “launch a new Climate Corps Program… a new set of scholarship and loan forgiveness programs to encourage a new generation of nuclear engineers, renewable energy experts, carbon capture specialists, energy storage scientists, and entrepreneurs who can help to address climate change and make America a global leader in climate technology”;
He sought to distinguish his approach from that of the Green New Deal, saying,
“Some other proposals include ideas that distract from addressing climate change directly, including a federal job guarantee for every American. These plans, while well-intentioned, could mean huge costs for American taxpayers, and might trigger a backlash that dooms the fight against climate change. As President, Hickenlooper will reverse Trump’s destructive course and launch a focused, effective, inclusive and sustainable plan that wins public support.”
Hickenlooper’s campaign website says
“John Hickenlooper believes climate change is the defining challenge of our time. The planet’s health, our economic well-being, our communities, and our national security are all at risk, and it is imperative that we urgently address the climate challenges we face and the market failures that contribute to the crisis. Climate change also presents opportunities. The US can re-establish strong and dedicated global leadership on climate change by re-engaging with global partners on the Paris Agreement and lead on agreements that go beyond Paris. We can create new jobs in emerging climate-related industries by collaborating with and incentivizing the private sector. And we can become a world leader in the development of climate change technologies. As President, Hickenlooper will lead a scientifically-grounded, focused, inclusive and affordable strategy to address climate change.”
In his campaign announcement video, Hickenlooper touches on the impact climate change has had on Colorado during his time as governor:
“Historic drought, thousands of acres in flames, and then came the worst floods in a hundred years…. I promised Colorado families that we would rebuild our communities better than before…With a divided legislature, we brought environmentalists and oil and gas companies to the table to create the toughest methane emissions laws in the country.”
In a post-announcement interview with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, Hickenlooper said,
“When I was mayor [of Denver] I got all 34 [suburban] mayors, two-thirds of them Republicans or conservative Independents, to universally support the largest transit initiative in the history of the country. We called it FasTracks, 122 miles of new track. I mean that’s how you address climate change! Creating groups of people that are committed – forget about Republican and Democrat…. We’re the one place where this has gotten done, and I think it’ll work in Washington.”
On March 20, Hickenlooper took a question during a CNN town hall about his opposition to a ballot initiative that would have imposed stricter regulations on the oil and gas industry in Colorado. He responded by saying,
“I believe in the urgency to address climate change as much as anything I know…. I would hold Colorado’s success at regulating the oil and gas industry, and really all of our emissions, against anybody. We got the oil and gas industry to sit down with the environmental community… and create the first methane regulations in the country… We have also gone and worked with 10 western states, six Republican, four Democratic, to take some of the Volkswagen diesel fraud settlement money and put it towards rapid recharging electric vehicle stations in a western network so there wouldn’t be gaps and we’d really foster people buying electric vehicles. We also a year ago announced for the first time in the country’s history that we were going to close two coal plants and replace it with wind, solar, and batteries. And in so doing, no natural gas for the times when the wind isn’t blowing, with those batteries and the wind and the solar, we’ll close two coal plants and the average electric bill for the consumers is going to go down.”
In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on March 26, Hickenlooper called for a different approach to climate change than the Green New Deal:
“The [Green New Deal] resolution sets unachievable goals. We do not yet have the technology needed to reach ‘net-zero greenhouse gas emissions’ in 10 years. That’s why many wind and solar companies don’t support it. There is no clean substitute for jet fuel. Electric vehicles are growing quickly, yet are still in their infancy. Manufacturing industries such as steel and chemicals, which account for almost as much carbon emissions as transportation, are even harder to decarbonize.”
“In addition to technological barriers, the Ocasio-Cortez- Markey resolution sets the Green New Deal up for failure by shifting away from private decision-making and toward the public sector — including multiple provisions with little connection to reducing greenhouse gas emissions…. Ocasio-Cortez and others have succeeded in galvanizing the country around climate change as never before. Now that we have this public support, it is imperative that we don’t abuse it. If climate change policy becomes synonymous in the U.S. psyche with higher utility bills, rising taxes and lost jobs, we will have missed our shot — and we might not get another one before it’s too late.”
In the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, Rachel Maddow asked Governor Hickenlooper whether oil and gas companies can really be partners in the fight against climate change. He responded,
“I share the sense of urgency – I’m a scientist, so I recognize that we’re within 10 or 12 years of actually suffering irreversible damage. But guaranteeing everyone a government job [via the Green New Deal] is not going to get us there. Socialism is not the solution. We have to look at what will really make a difference. In Colorado we’re closing a couple coal plants and replacing them with wind, solar, and batteries and the monthly bills go down. We’re building a network for electric vehicles. We are working with the oil and gas industry and we created the first methane regulations in the country…. The industrial, heavy industry – we haven’t seen the plans yet! If you look at the real problem, the worst polluters in CO2 are China, the United States, then its concrete. Beyond that, I think we’ve got to recognize that only by bringing people together, businesses, nonprofits, we can’t demonize every business. We’ve got to bring them together to be part of this thing because ultimately if we do not do that we will be doomed to failure.”
Later in that debate, Hickenlooper was one of two candidates on stage who said climate change would be their top issue upon assuming office.
In 2017 Hickenlooper signed an executive order requiring his state to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. He also signed Colorado up to the U.S. Climate Alliance and has helped turn Colorado into a national leader on electric vehicles.
He has defended fracking to produce natural gas. At an event on June 14, 2018, co-hosted by E2, Hickenlooper claimed natural gas was going to be essential for helping lift people around the world out of poverty, and he lauded his administration’s efforts to curb fugitive methane emissions. After getting environmentalists and oil and gas companies together, “The oil and gas industry agreed to pay $60 million a year [to plug leaks] and they took the equivalent of 300,000 cars off the road.” Overall, he said, “I think what we’re going to see is… a large percentage of new energy being wind and solar, renewable energy, but I think we’re still going to need a lot of natural gas for a while.”
Gov. Jay Inslee
On May 3, Inslee rolled out his 100% Clean Energy for America Plan– “a bold 10-year mobilization to defeat climate change and create millions of good-paying jobs”. It has three major components, each intended to help the US achieve net-zero greenhouse gases “by no later than 2045.” They are to:
- Reach 100% zero emissions in new light- and medium-duty vehicles and all buses by 2030;
- Achieve 100% zero-carbon pollution from all new commercial and residential buildings by 2030; and
- Set a national 100% Clean Electricity Standard, requiring 100% carbon-neutral power by 2030, putting America on a path to having all clean, renewable and zero-emission energy in electricity generation by 2035.
On May 10, Inslee wrote in a blog for Data For Progress calling for the creation of a Climate Conservation Corps.
“The Climate Corps will organize the greatest renewable resource of all – the talent and energy of the American people – to work together in cities and rural communities, in our great parks and public lands, and all around the planet. It will give young people the opportunity to serve in the domestic and global effort to secure a healthy future, and will provide Americans of all ages and backgrounds with education, skills, job-training and employment opportunities to thrive in building our new clean energy economy.”
On May 16, Inslee released his Evergreen Economy Plan, a 28-point “comprehensive vision to build a clean energy economy that will create 8 million good jobs during the next 10 years. The plan catalyzes roughly $9 trillion of investments — with at least $300 billion in average annual federal spending leveraging approximately $600 billion more each year — in American industries and manufacturing, infrastructure, skilled labor, and new technology deployment.” The full plan is available to read here.
On June 5, Inslee released his Global Climate Mobilization plan. It lays out his vision for putting climate action at the heart of his foreign policy. Overall it has five goals:
- Restoring America’s leadership role in global climate action;
- Promoting resilience, justice, and stability in the face of climate disruption;
- Setting strong climate and labor standards in international trade;
- Driving investment to build a sustainable global economy;
- Taking on fossil fuels and creating climate accountability.
On June 24, Inslee released his Freedom from Fossil Fuels plan, which describes his vision for completely eliminating fossil fuel production. It has five key components:
- Ending fossil fuel subsidies;
- Banning new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and in offshore waters, and phasing out fossil fuel production;
- Holding polluters accountable by imposing a climate pollution fee;
- Rejecting new fossil fuel infrastructure and stopping fossil fuel exports;
- Improving corporate climate transparency.
Inslee’s climate plans form part of his overarching Climate Mission agenda. His campaign website describes this mission as an,
“ambitious and actionable plan for our nation to defeat climate change and invest in our clean energy future…. Governor Jay Inslee knows that defeating climate change is the defining challenge of our time and that it must be the foremost priority for the next president. Devastating disasters and rising pollution have claimed lives, cost the economy billions and threatened the places Americans live, work and raise families. Jay’s climate plan will meet the climate challenge head-on, while creating jobs building a clean energy future…. Through Jay’s Climate Mission, America will build upon the leadership of states and local communities, and engage the full energy of our country in a 10-year mobilization to confront climate change, end our reliance on fossil fuels, and create a clean energy future. This mission must be led by the White House — starting with bold action on day one of the next administration. There is no time to lose.”
Inslee has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
In an op-ed in the Washington Post on January 17 Inslee wrote,
“The Democratic Party must nominate a candidate who will put fighting climate change at the top of the agenda. And that’s why I’m seriously considering running for president… Confronting this change has been the driving force of my time in public life. About a decade ago [in 2007], I co-wrote a book about the need to transform our economy to one run on clean energy and the need for a national Apollo mission-style project to take on this herculean task…. We must strive to achieve net-zero carbon pollution by midcentury, create a 100 percent clean-energy grid, and deploy new strategies and massive investments to transition off fossil fuels and decarbonize transportation, buildings and industries.”
Inslee’s announcement video on March 1 focused exclusively on climate change. After showing archival footage of him talking about climate change on the House floor, Inslee tells the camera,
“We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we’re the last that can do something about it. We went to the moon and created technologies that changed the world. Our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change. This crisis isn’t just a chart or a graph anymore, the impacts are being felt everywhere. We have the opportunity to transform our economy, run on 100% clean energy, that will bring millions of good paying jobs to every community across America, and create a more just future for everyone. I’m Jay Inslee, and I’m running for president because I’m the only candidate that will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority. We can do this, join our movement! This is our moment.”
Inslee’s campaign launch on March 1 was held at a solar panel installation facility in Seattle, and there he outlined the four main goals of his Climate Mission agenda:
- “Number one, we will power our economy with 100 percent clean, renewable, and carbon-free energy and achieve net zero greenhouse gas pollution in the United States;
- Number two, we are going to create millions of good paying jobs in every community investing in clean energy. We are going to build electric cars in Michigan. We are going to build and install wind turbines in Iowa. And we are going to install solar right here in Washington State. That’s what we’re going to do;
- And while we do this, we will focus on justice and inclusion as a centerpiece of this economic transformation, to ensure no group is left to bear the cost of transition and everyone benefits from new jobs and investment;
- And finally we need to end the giveaways and billions in subsidies to fossil fuel industries.”
At a CNN town hall on April 10, Inslee stressed the importance of removing the filibuster in order to pass climate legislation: “If the filibuster is still in Mitch McConnell’s hand come 2021, all hope is sort of down the tubes to be able to do real significant reform. So I’m telling you, if I’m given this highest honor, I will lead the charge to end this senatorial privilege, which is an ancient artifact of a bygone in time. Let’s get some… climate change legislation and reform the United States of America.”
In an interview with the Intelligencer published on April 16, Inslee said he supports research into nuclear energy:
“I think, given the urgency and the scale of the challenge, we have to keep all low- and zero-carbon technologies on the table. I support research projects to find out whether we can develop a system that will meet our needs: One, be more cost-effective; two, be safer to deal with, with passive safety systems; three, deal with the waste issue — either eliminate it or find some disposal system that’s meaningful; and four, win public acceptance…. Those issues would have to be surmounted to make it something that could grow in the country.”
In April Inslee began calling for the Democratic National Committee to hold a climate-only primary debate, emailing supporters that,
“There’s so much to talk about when it comes to our climate and our environment. Climate justice. The health impact that big polluters are having on our communities. Access to clean water. Creating union jobs in a clean energy economy. Protecting federal lands. These topics deserve a focused debate. This can’t be a one-off question where candidates get to give a soundbite and move on: Climate change is at the heart of every issue that matters to voters, and voters deserve to hear what 2020 presidential candidates plan to do about it. Each 2020 nominee needs to have a concrete plan to address climate change – and we deserve to hear those plans.”
Inslee said the decision was,
“extremely disappointing. The grassroots of our party is demanding that we pay attention to this existential threat. This is an issue upon life depends… and it is totally unacceptable to me not only not to have a debate, where we end up just having cliches and soundbites instead of forcing candidates to put their plans forward, but they’ve also said they’re barring Democratic candidates from participating in other debates. That’s outrageous to me, to muzzle candidates that want to have this debate.”
In the first Democratic presidential debate on June 26, Inslee responded to a question about addressing income inequality by saying he will,
“put people to work in the jobs of the present and the future. Donald Trump is simply wrong. He says wind turbines cause cancer, we know they cause jobs. And we know that we can put millions of people to work in the clean energy jobs of the future. Carpenters, IBEWs members, machinists. We’re doing it in my state today. And then we can do what America always does: lead the world and invent the future.”
Later in the debate, after Rachel Maddow asked if his climate plan would save Miami from going underwater, Inslee replied,
“Yes, first by taking the filibuster from Mitch McConnell. We have to do that. We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and we’re the last that can do something about it. Our towns are burning, our fields are flooding, Miami is inundated. And we have to understand this is a climate crisis, an emergency, and it is our last chance in the next administration to do something about it. We need to do what I’ve done in my state: we’ve passed a 100% clean electrical grid bill. We now have a vision statement. My plan has been called the gold standard for putting people to work. But the most important thing on this, and the biggest decision for the American public is who is going to make this their first priority? And I am the only candidate saying this has to be the top priority of the United States.”
Inslee is the co-founder of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 21 states that have pledged to take action on climate change following Trump withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
On March 28, Klobuchar released her first major policy proposal: a massive infrastructure package that includes a climate change component. “Amy’s plan makes a down payment on transforming our economy from one reliant on fossil fuels to one that depends on clean energy,” her campaign’s press release said, adding,
“That means sweeping legislation that invests in green infrastructure, modernizes our aging energy infrastructure so that it is secure and efficient, strengthens bioenergy capabilities, puts incentives in place to overhaul our building codes, and invests in energy efficiency retrofits and rural renewable energy development. Amy will also help states and cities plan for the impacts of climate change by building stronger, more resilient transportation networks and public infrastructure to withstand rising sea levels, a changing climate, and extreme weather. This means good-paying jobs for people across the country, investments that ensure cleaner and greener communities and workplaces, and a commitment to doing something real about climate change.”
On June 18, Klobuchar released a list of over 100 concrete actions she would take in her first 100 days as president. Six were related to climate, including:
- “Get the United States back in the International Climate Agreement on day one”;
- “Senator Klobuchar will bring back the goals established by the Clean Power Plan”;
- “Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen our fuel economy standards, which are key to fighting climate change”;
- “Senator Klobuchar will introduce sweeping legislation to combat the climate crisis that builds on the framework of the Green New Deal, including a massive investment in green jobs and infrastructure, climate research and innovation, environmental justice programs, rural energy development and better greener transportation. In addition to a major direct federal investment, her legislation will create state, local and private incentives for the immediate adoption and deployment of clean energy technology to reduce emissions, including the promotion of green manufacturing. Her proposal will put our country on a path to achieving 100% net-zero emissions no later than 2050, fulfill our responsibility to our communities and workers who have helped power this country, and includes incentives and support for tougher building codes, appliance standards, buy clean, and climate resilience”;
- “Reinstate the National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee to immediately start addressing the climate crisis. The National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee was charged with translating the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete goals. Senator Klobuchar will reinstate this committee that President Trump let expire”;
- “End the Trump Administration’s censoring of climate science. Senator Klobuchar will end Trump Administration efforts to censor climate science through actions like deleting climate-focused websites, removing the phrase “climate change” from reports, and preventing government scientists from attending conferences on climate change.”
Klobuchar’s campaign website says,
“Amy is deeply committed to tackling the climate crisis and believes that it is an urgent priority for our communities, for our economy and for our planet. She is a co-sponsor of a Green New Deal and has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. On day one of Amy’s presidency she will get us back into the International Climate Change Agreement. On day two and day three, she will bring back the clean power rules and gas mileage standards that the Obama Administration put into place. And she will put forward sweeping legislation that provides a landmark investment in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, provides incentives for tougher building codes, promotes rural renewable energy and development, and promotes ‘buy clean’ policies.”
In her announcement speech on February 11, Klobuchar promised, “in the first 100 days of my administration I will reinstate the clean power rules, the gas mileage standards, and put forth sweeping legislation to invest in green jobs and infrastructure. And on day one, we will rejoin the international climate agreement.”
On February 12, Klobuchar told Anderson Cooper, “I’m in favor of [the Green New Deal] simply because I see it as a framework to jump-start a discussion… I don’t see it as something that we can get rid of all these industries or do this in a few years — that doesn’t make sense to me — or reduce air travel. But what does make sense to me is to start doing concrete things, and put some aspirations out there on climate change.”
On April 22 during a CNN town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, Klobuchar received a question about how she plans to include rural communities in the discussion around climate change. She responded that she would say,
“Look at what’s in front of you. For too long we’ve been talking about this, I think, as a coastal issue. Which is true! Rising sea levels, the Greenland ice sheet was in the news today, hurricanes. But let’s talk about it for the middle of the country where we need the political support…. This is what we see: floods all over Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri…. Or you look at the wildfires in Colorado or Arizona, or you think of that dad in Northern California outside of Paradise who is driving his little girl in the car, with their house presumably burning behind them, and the flames lapping over their car and he’s singing to her, singing to calm her down. Climate change isn’t happening 100 years from now, it’s happening right now.”
After the release of the IPCC’s 1.5 degrees report in October 2018, Klobuchar took to the floor of the Senate and gave a speech on the importance of addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Following the release of the National Climate Assessment in November 2018, Klobuchar spoke with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” and called for a renewed commitment to the Paris climate agreement, decried the Trump administration’s rollback of gas mileage standards, and called for the use of EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Klobuchar co-sponsored Senator Markey’s Green New Deal resolution, saying, “Investing in clean green energy is our future. We must do it for our climate and we must lead in the world.”
Rep. Seth Moulton
Moulton has not released any climate plans to date.
Moulton’s campaign website says,
“We’re facing two primary challenges in this country right now. The first is that our economy is changing faster than ever before, and Americans everywhere are being left behind. The second is climate change. That’s why we need a Green New Deal: because if we do it right, we can solve both problems at once. The Green New Deal needs to be built around green jobs and clean energy, decarbonization and breakthrough technologies, and access to green energy for the developing world—and America should lead the way in winning this moral and economic opportunity. We can lead the world in green tech and green jobs, and we should set the standards for other countries to follow. The New Deal paved the way for a strong economy and American leadership in the last century. Let’s shape the Green New Deal to help America lead this one.”
Moulton has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
In his announcement video on April 21, Moulton says his vision for the country “starts with growing our economy with the new jobs, the green jobs, the tech jobs, the advanced manufacturing jobs that are going to make us the world leader in the next century.” Likewise, his national security agenda “starts with tackling climate change and making sure we have a planet without an expiration date.”
Moulton signed on as a cosponsor to the House Green New Deal resolution on February 7. In an op-ed published on March 29 in the Des Moines Register, Moulton said,
“I signed on to the Green New Deal when it was an open framework because the opportunity we have is to make it into a new jobs package that also gets climate change under control. A successful Green New Deal will have many dimensions, and Iowa already leads the nation in one: renewable energy. But let me suggest two more that can start now and start here in Iowa: Federal Green Corps and carbon farming….The federal Green Corps would create an optional path for Americans to spend two years serving our country. It could retrofit our buildings with insulation to lower heating and air-conditioning bills, an… would focus on projects like reinforcing our levees to protect from future floods….Carbon farming is even simpler: when farmers harvest crops, Congress should give them a subsidy to plant cover crops and not till their fields. This will take carbon out of the air and capture it underground, reducing the carbon in our atmosphere. And it can help farmers maintain their land, protecting against erosion and enriching their soil. These two steps won’t solve our climate and economic challenges alone, but they’re a good start.”
In 2015 Moulton advocated in favor of keeping aging nuclear power plants online rather than shutting them down. He described nuclear power as “the best carbon-free energy source we have, and we’re all going to be breathing the dirty air from coal and gas if we shut these plants down.”
Rep. Beto O’Rourke
On April 29, O’Rourke announced a detailed four-part framework to fight climate change, ensuring the country reaches “net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and that we are halfway there by 2030”. The plan rests on four main pillars:
- Start cutting pollution on day one and taking executive actions to lead on climate;
- Mobilize a historic $5 trillion for climate change with investment in infrastructure innovation, and our people and communities;
- Guarantee our net-zero emissions ambition by 2050;
- Defend our communities that are preparing for and fighting against extreme weather.
O’Rourke has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
In his announcement video on March 14, O’Rourke told the camera, “the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy, and our climate have never been greater.” He added, “perhaps most importantly of all, because our very existence depends on it, we can unleash the ingenuity and creativity of millions of Americans who want to ensure that we squarely confront the challenge of climate change before it’s too late.”
At a campaign event in Keokuk, Iowa that same day, O’Rourke was asked about his thoughts on the Green New Deal. “This is our final chance,” he responded. “The scientists are absolutely unanimous on this, that we have no more than 12 years to take incredibly bold action on this crisis…. Can we make it? I don’t know, it’s up to every single one of us…. Some will criticize the Green New Deal for being too bold, for being too unmanageable. I’ll tell you what, I haven’t seen anything better that addresses the crisis that we face, a crisis that could at its worst lead to extinction…. Literally the future of the world depends on us right here.”
In his announcement speech in El Paso on March 30, O’Rourke said,
“This is our moment, with little more than 10 years to spare to do everything in our power to free this economy from a dependence on fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions, and to ensure as we make the investment in new technologies and renewable energy that everyone has the chance to benefit from this new economy, especially those communities, lower income and too often of color, who have born the brunt of climate change so far… let’s open up technologies and markets to [everyone that wants to help] that provide an incentive for capturing the carbon that we’re currently emitting in the air….”
At the We the People Forum on April 1, O’Rourke was asked what he would do in his first hundred days to protect the environment. He responded,
“There are a couple of low hanging opportunities first implemented by the Obama Administration and since reversed by the Trump Administration: Clean Power Plan rules to make sure that we take into account pollution right now. Higher standards for vehicle emissions… absolutely right away. First day in office make sure that we’re fully signed up for the Paris climate accords. As ambitious as those are, it isn’t ambitious enough. So the next thing we need to do is to lead by example…. We generate more wind energy in Texas than any other state in the union. We’re close to closing the distance on solar, building out utility-scale solar. The two fastest growing jobs in the United States of America today? Wind jobs and solar jobs. Let’s make this about saving the planet and also connecting people with jobs that provide purpose and function and a living wage and a skill and a trade that they will have for the rest of their lives. That also means unions and labor, strengthening and prioritizing instead of diminishing the ability to organize and equip people with the skills they’ll need for the rest of their lives….And I’ve got to tell you, those who have written and championed the Green New Deal are absolutely right on the money.”
At a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on May 21, 2019, O’Rourke was asked about whether he regrets his vote to lift the ban on crude oil exports. He responded,
“I’m happy with that vote… I want to make sure that this country, for as long as we use fossil fuels – and I just made the pledge to transition this country as quickly as humanly can from them – but as long as we’re using them, I want to make sure that we’re independent of the need to obtain those fossil fuels from the Middle East or Venezuela, for these endless wars we’ve been in, 28 years in Iraq alone, and this president threatening to invade Venezuela, the country with the largest proven oil reserves. I’d rather those jobs and that exploration take place here in this country to satisfy our energy needs and the needs of others around the world. I’d like to toughen the EPA standards to make sure that we’re doing this in the most environmentally sound way. And then long term, as quickly as possible transition totally off of fossil fuels to renewable energy.”
On June 21, O’Rourke was asked during an interview on Pod Save America what his top legislative priority would be. He responded that although “there are a host of threats and challenges that we face, [climate change] is the single greatest. I think it’s important that we begin by bringing this country together around the solutions to it.”
At the first Democratic presidential debate on June 26, O’Rourke was asked how he would respond to someone who believes climate legislation is the government telling them how to live. He responded,
“You’ve got to bring everyone in to the challenges and the decisions we face… We in our administration are going to fund resiliency… in those places that are on the frontlines of climate change today. We’re going to mobilize $5 trillion in this economy over the next ten years. We’re going to free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels, and we’re going to put farmers and ranchers in the drivers seat, using renewable and sustainable agriculture to make sure that we capture more carbon out of the air and keep more of it in the soil, paying farmers for the environmental services they provide.”
Later in the debate O’Rourke was one of four candidates on stage to name climate change as the top geopolitical threat facing the United States.
In a televised debate with Cruz during the Senate race in 2018, O’Rourke responded to a moderator’s question about climate change by saying,
“The climate is changing. Man-made climate change is a fact…. We still have time, but the window is closing. If we’re going to make our commitment to the generations that follow and not just think about the next election or our political career or our pursuit of the White House then we can make the right decisions. Now, we can support Texas being a proud energy leader in oil and in gas, but also in renewable energy. Today, Texas leads the country – we’re number one in the nation – in the generation of renewable wind power. We’re number five and moving up quick when it comes to solar. The two fastest growing jobs in the United States of America today [are] wind and solar jobs. We can continue to grow this economy, we can reject the false choice between oil and gas and renewable energy, make sure we produce and refine and transport and use our energy resources more responsibly.”
Rep. Tim Ryan:
Ryan has not released any climate plans to date.
Ryan’s campaign website says,
“Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing our planet and the clock is ticking. We can’t just reduce climate change — we need to reverse it! With the number of deadly ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ storms, floods and fires, we owe it to our kids to stop the debate and start addressing this issue head-on.”
“As President, I will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Republicans are rejecting science as it stands. They’re rolling back protections already put into place. Every other country around the world is making real strategic investments in carbon emission reduction and clean energy technology. We’re not. The United States’ inaction is unacceptable. We must show greater leadership through strong, decisive action. That means committing to a future that is 100% carbon free and laying out a pragmatic, Earth-friendly energy policy to get us there. A social pact to clean energy also creates opportunities for new, good-paying jobs across the country. There are 8,000 component parts that make up a new windmill. There will be almost 30 million electric cars on the road by 2030. The solar industry is growing at 50% annually. This stuff has to get built somewhere and I want everything built right here in the United States.”
Ryan has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
On February 24, Ryan sat down for an interview with a local New Hampshire news station and responded to a question about his stance on the Green New Deal by saying,
“I think the value statement that that document presented is very valuable and very bold. I don’t agree with everything in there, but I will say we’re having a conversation about it…. I don’t think we can get to a green economy, a carbon-neutral economy without having an honest conversation about nuclear energy, both what we have now and microgrids to come. I also think we’ve got to talk about how business is going to be a part of this. There’s no way we’re going to green the economy, going to be able to get rid of carbon and reverse climate change, without having business at the table. We need the magic of the free-enterprise system, the innovation that comes with the free enterprise system, that’s got to be a big part of this.”
Upon being asked a follow-up question about the perception among his constituents of the Green New Deal, Ryan said,
“I think we’ve got to talk about it differently. We can talk about it in the context of climate change, but we’ve got to talk about it in the sense of manufacturing jobs, what does this mean for the economy, what does this mean for the energy industry. Talk to people about how this means jobs! This means work. Wind’s growing at 25-30% per year. Solar’s growing at 25-30% per year. That’s opportunity. The key is going to be how are you going to get private investment, venture capital money that is primarily focused on the coasts (California, New York, Massachusetts have 80% of venture capital). If we’re going to green the economy, we need that venture capital going to places like New Hampshire, Ohio, Iowa, the Deep South. We’ve got to figure out how we get private industry and the profit motive working and then make sure the workers are cut in on that deal.”
Moments after announcing his candidacy on April 4 on “The View”, Ryan outlined his plan for bringing manufacturing back to the Midwest:
“I understand where we need to go. The country’s so divided right now that we can’t get a plan together…. There are so many industries out there growing: wind and solar growing at 25-30% a year; electric vehicles, there’s two million made today, by 2030 there’s going to be 30 million electric vehicles. I want those vehicles made in the United States, I want the batteries made in the United States, I want the charging stations made in the United States, and right now China dominates 40% of the electric vehicle market…. [Trump] plays the old school politics. He wants to go back to the old economy. He wants to go back to old steel mills and old coal mines. I’m saying where are our kids going to work? How do we come together, the best of government, the best of the workforce, and the best of the free enterprise system and dominate the electric vehicle market so that we’re creating jobs and at the end of the day cut the worker in on the deal.”
At the first Democratic presidential debate on June 26, Ryan told the moderators, “We need an industrial policy saying we’re going to dominate building electric vehicles – there’s going to be 30 million made in the next 10 years; I want half of them made in the United States. I want to dominate the solar industry and manufacture those here in the United States.”
Ryan was the only democratic cosponsor of a 2015 bill to expand exports of liquified natural gas.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sanders has not released any climate plans to date.
Sanders campaign website includes a page titled “Combat Climate Change and Pass a Green New Deal.” It says, “Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet. Yet the giant, multi-national fossil fuel corporations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars furthering their greed and protecting their profits at the expense of our climate and our future. The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made it clear that if we fail to substantially cut the amount of carbon in our atmosphere in under 11 years, the human, environmental, and economic costs will be severe and irreversible…. When we are in the White House, we will:
- Pass a Green New Deal to save American families money and generate millions of jobs by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100% energy efficiency and sustainable energy. A Green New Deal will protect workers and the communities in which they live to ensure a transition to family-sustaining wage, union jobs;
- Invest in infrastructure and programs to protect the frontline communities most vulnerable to extreme climate impacts like wildfires, sea level rise, drought, floods, and extreme weather like hurricanes;
- Reduce carbon pollution emissions from our transportation system by building out high-speed passenger rail, electric vehicles, and public transit;
- Ban fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground by banning fossil fuel leases on public lands;
- End exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.”
Sanders has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
In a video announcing his candidacy on February 19, Sanders listed climate change as one of his reasons for running:
“Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice…. I’m running for president because we need to make policy decisions based on science, not politics. We need a president who understands that climate change is real, is an existential threat to our country and the entire planet, and that we can generate massive job creation by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”
On a March 1 appearance on ABC’s “The View”, Sanders was asked a question about climate change and said,
“In my own personal opinion, I’ve been talking to scientists all over the world, if we do not get our act together and take on the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel into energy efficiency and sustainable energy, the planet that we are going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren – Jane and I have seven grandchildren – will become increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable. Now given that reality, it seems to me the job we have to do is to immediately grasp the magnitude of the problem and transform our energy system to save the planet…. You cannot go too far on the issue of climate change! The future of the planet is at stake!”
At a town hall in Bethlehem, PA on Fox News on April 15, responding to a question about national security Sanders said,
“I’ll tell you what else in my view is a national security issue. We have got to reject as a nation Trump’s idea that climate change is a hoax. I’m sure you’re familiar with the scientific reports that tell us we have all of 12 years to significantly cut carbon emissions or else there will be irreparable damage to the United States and countries all over the world. We have a moral responsibility in my view to transform our energy system and leave this planet healthy and habitable for our children and our grandchildren. And by the way, when we do that we create millions of good paying jobs…. In my city of Burlington Vermont, which is the largest city in the state of Vermont, I believe that all of our energy is now renewable. That’s something that I started way back when I was mayor, and other cities are doing the same! But here is the point, I happen to believe that we should phase out, not eliminate it tomorrow, but phase out nuclear power plants. But here is the main point. The main point is if we do not combat climate change I fear very much the kind of world we are leaving to our kids. More drought, more flooding, more extreme weather disturbances, more rising ocean levels. And when those things happen, they become a national security issue because people migrate! If I’m living in the Middle East or someplace and I can’t grow food on my land, I’m going to pick up and leave and that causes conflict.”
On April 22 when a student inquired about what specific policies he supports to get to carbon neutrality and support a just transition, Sanders said,
“Here’s where we are. The scientists who know the issue the best, some months ago made it clear that if we do not significantly transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energies this planet and our country will suffer irreparable damage. So to me the issue of moving very aggressively on climate change is a moral issue, because it speaks to whether or not we are going to leave this country and our planet – and I’ve got seven grandchildren including 3 here in New Hampshire – in a way that is healthy and habitable. And if we do not act aggressively it will be a disaster for the entire planet and the United States.To answer your question, what does that mean? It means that we have got to take on the fossil fuel industry and make it very clear that we are moving away from fossil fuel and at the same time not blaming those people who work in the coal industry or the gas industry or the oil industry. All they are trying to do is feed their families, and we support that! So we, in all of the legislation we have many many many billions of dollars to go into those communities to help workers get the training and the education that they need to get jobs that will pay them as much or even more.At the end of the day this is what we’ve got to do:
- We’ve got to move aggressively towards energy efficiency. That means we can create – and one of the points that the Green New Deal makes – is we have the potential to create millions of good paying jobs as we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel. There are buildings all over New England, homes all over New England, that are wasting a tremendous amount of energy. We can weatherize those homes. I’ve been in homes in Vermont where the fuel bill went down 50% because people got the insulation, the windows, the roofing that they needed. Millions of people can be helped in that respect;
- We should invest very significantly in solar and in wind. I know the president thinks that wind turbines cause cancer… only person in the world who happens to believe that, but we can move aggressively towards wind and solar;
- We have got to rethink our transportation system and build the kind of state of the art rail system that our country needs, which will help us transport people and cargo in a much more non-polluting way.
The bottom line is this is an issue that we cannot run away from. And of all my disagreements with Trump on virtually every issue, the idea that he continues to talk about climate change as a hoax or not real is so dangerous and so harmful, not only to our country but the world.The United States of America under a Sanders presidency will lead the world in transforming our energy system, create millions of jobs, create a less polluting society. And that is something we have no choice, that is something we have to do.”
At the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum on June 1, Sanders told the crowd, “Here is my dream, you want a big idea? Here is a very big idea: maybe, just maybe, countries around the world that are spending $1.5 trillion on weapons of destruction to kill each other can band together and use that money to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy and energy efficiency and save the planet, and in the process create millions of good paying jobs. That’s my big idea!”
In 2015 Sanders joined Senators Merkley and Markey to introduce the American Clean Energy Investment Act, which would have made permanent tax credits for clean energy, incentivized energy efficiency upgrades and expanded access to electric vehicles.
During the 2016 campaign, Sanders backed a national ban on fracking.
On December 3, 2018, he held a virtual town hall called Solving Our Climate Crisis that featured noted environmental leaders such as Bill McKibben, Van Jones, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Republican mayor Dale Ross, who successfully transitioned his town to 100% renewable energy.
Sanders co-sponsored Senator Markey’s Green New Deal resolution, writing on Twitter, “Climate change is an existential disaster facing the entire world. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. A Green New Deal can save the planet and create millions of new jobs.”
Rep. Joe Sestak:
Sestak has not released any climate plans to date.
Sestak’s campaign website says,
“Climate change and environmental collapse are twin problems that threaten the very existence of life as we know it on this planet. Solving them presents our generation with the greatest challenge in human history — and it is imperative that we rise to meet this challenge. The stakes are just too high if we fail. As President, I will make stopping climate change and preventing environmental collapse the key national priorities they need to be. We owe future generations of humanity nothing less.”
The website describes nine priorities for addressing climate change, including:
- “Re-join the Paris Accord and restoring our leadership role among the community of nations working together to fight climate change;
- Stop subsidizing fossil fuel industries;
- Implement a fee for carbon polluters, with proceeds being returned to all Americans as a dividend and also devoted to research & development in renewable energy and other climate-stabilizing strategies;
- Ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol committing countries around the world to phasing out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
- Give the EPA full authority to regulate substances (like HFCs) that contribute to global warming, as it has authority to regulate ozone-depleting substances;
- Establish a permanent moratorium on all future offshore drilling and Arctic drilling, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
- Stop subsidizing destructive industrial farming practices, and dramatically increase support for carbon-sequestering regenerative agriculture;
- Restore the National Monuments and other public lands opened to extractive industries by the current administration;
- Renew our commitment to fighting deforestation, habitat destruction, and illegal poaching of endangered species around the world.”
Sestak has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
In his announcement video, Sestak says,
“There is nothing that we can do just by ourselves – absolutely nothing – to protect America from the most destructive threat to mankind. In just a decade, it will begin its slow implosion of our world into crisis. That is when the worst seeds of the irreversible consequences from climate change will have begun to be sown. Unless uprooted, they will eventually grow into wars because of desperate drought and famine. Violence seizing and hoarding of diminished global resources, economic shocks to the poor and rich alike. The bankruptcy of the idea that governments could actually provide for their people’s general welfare, as the relentless rise of global heat and oceans takes an uncontrollable toll on their citizens.”
Sestak voted for the Waxman Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009. He also pushed Speaker Pelosi to increase the renewable electricity standard in the bill to 20% by 2020.
Steyer has not released any climate plans to date.
Steyer’s campaign website describes his vision for establishing five basic rights at the core of the Democratic party platform. One of these rights, the right to clean air and clean water, references climate change, saying,
“Pollution is everywhere, choking the air we breathe and contaminating the water we drink. It is literally killing people — cutting years off many Americans’ lives, threatening everyone’s health and safety, and pushing our planet towards a climate catastrophe. And none of this is happening by accident…. We must demand environmental justice — because no one has the right to poison us to make more money.”
In a March 28 interview with Hill.TV, Steyer talked about his perspective on the Green New Deal, saying,
“I give [Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Ed Markey] enormous credit for what they did. They took a gigantic issue in front of the American people, which is the sustainability of our country and the safety and health of every American, and tried to put on the table something that is commensurate with the problem. Do I agree with every part of it? No, absolutely not. It’s a first draft, a discussion document, that I think is a dramatic reframing of the problem…. From my standpoint, I view the Green New Deal as a way that has been extremely successful of drawing attention to a gigantic problem and reframing it…. what I see is people trying to move the ball forward in an important way representing the overwhelming bulk of Americans…”
In 2013 Steyer founded NextGen America, a nonprofit group organizing students and young activists on college campuses across the country to vote for politicians who support climate action.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren:
On April 15, Warren outlined her plan for public lands, saying,
“Any serious effort to address climate change must include public lands — fossil fuel extraction in these areas is responsible for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The Trump administration, with its casual denial of science and apparent amnesia about massive crises like the BP oil spill, has also proposed opening nearly the entire U.S. coastline to seismic testing and offshore drilling. It is wrong to prioritize corporate profits over the health and safety of our local communities.That’s why on my first day as president,
- I will sign an executive order that says no more drilling — a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands;
- I’d also reinstate the methane pollution rule to limit existing oil and gas projects from releasing harmful gases that poison our air; and
- reinstitute the clean water rule to protect our lakes, rivers, and streams, and the drinking water they provide.
And it’s not enough to end our public lands’ contribution to climate change. We have an enormous opportunity to make them a part of the climate solution, and for both economic and environmental reasons, we should take it…. As President, I will set a goal of providing 10% of our overall electricity generation from renewable sources offshore or on public lands. That’s nearly ten times what we are currently generating. We can achieve this goal while prioritizing sites with low impact on local ecology but high potential for renewable energy generation.
My administration will make it a priority to expedite leases and incentivize development in existing designated areas, and share royalties from renewable generation with states and local communities to help promote economic development and reduce local dependence on fossil fuel revenues.”
Sharon Buccino, a senior adviser to the NRDC Action Fund, was quoted in a New York Times story on the policy, calling Ms. Warren’s plan a “responsible and visionary” way “to manage and protect our priceless lands and waters from exploitation and destruction.”
On May 15, Warren introduced her Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act, a plan to have the military lead the fight against climate change. It has five main planks:
- Have the Pentagon achieve net zero carbon emissions for all its non-combat bases and infrastructure by 2030, consistent with the Green New Deal;
- Create a dedicated source of funding to adapt our bases in the United States and around the world by having defense contractors that have not achieved net zero carbon emissions to pay a small fee — one percent of the total value of their contracts;
- Appoint a senior official within the Defense Department and each of the military services focused on climate change;
- Invest billions of dollars into a new, ten-year research and development program at the Defense Department focused on microgrids and advanced energy storage;
- Have the Pentagon to produce an annual report evaluating the climate vulnerability of every U.S. military base at home and abroad.
On June 4, Warren outlined her Green Manufacturing Plan, in which she pledges to, “Invest $2 trillion over the next ten years in green research, manufacturing, and exporting — linking American innovation directly to American jobs, and helping achieve the ambitious targets of the Green New Deal.” The plan has three components:
- A Green Apollo Program that will provide “$400 billion in funding over the next ten years for clean energy research and development — more than ten times what we invested in the last ten years”;
- A Green Industrial Mobilization that will use “a $1.5 trillion federal procurement commitment over the next ten years to purchase American-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy products for federal, state, and local use, and for export”;
- A Green Marshall Plan that will create ”a new federal office dedicated to selling American-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy technology abroad and a $100 billion commitment to assisting countries to purchase and deploy this technology.”
On July 10, Warren outlined her Climate Risk Disclosure plan. The goal of this plan is to reset the financial valuation of fossil fuel companies. As the plan states,
“if the world makes the changes necessary to meet the emissions goals of the Paris climate accord, at least 82% of global coal reserves, 49% of global gas reserves, and 33% of global oil reserves will have to go unused the next 30 years. The market is not appropriately pricing in this risk, and it’s creating what former Vice President Gore has called a ‘carbon bubble’ — an inflation of the value of fossil fuel companies that could burst and threaten the financial system…. My plan will push more investors to move their money out of the fossil fuel industry, accelerating the transition to clean energy. It will also demonstrate to investors that — if nothing else — climate change represents a serious risk to their money and they need to demand global action to address it. And it will make clear that climate change represents not just an existential environmental threat to the planet, but a serious threat to our financial system — one that we need to head off now before it costs people their homes, jobs, and savings like the 2008 crisis.”
The plan accomplishes this by requiring “the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue rules that make every public company disclose detailed information, including the likely effect on the company if climate change continues at its current pace and the likely effect on the company if the world successfully restricts greenhouse gas emissions to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.”
Warren’s campaign website includes links and descriptions of her climate plans.
Warren has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
When Warren announced her candidacy for president on February 11, she said, “When it comes to climate change, our very existence is at stake. But Washington refuses to lift a finger without permission from the fossil fuel companies. That’s dangerous and it’s wrong!… Stop stalling on spending money, real money, on infrastructure, on clean energy and a Green New Deal!”
On June 6, Warren talked about her green manufacturing plan at a town hall in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She told the audience, “right now we’ve got a climate crisis in this country and in this world. It threatens us all. Worldwide there’s about a $23 trillion market for fighting back against climate change, and that’s going to mean a lot of research, a lot of innovation, and a lot of manufacturing to push back against that. My plan is to make America the leader in that fight [in three ways].
- [First,] we double down, triple down, go 10-fold on research from where it’s been before and we say to anyone that wants to use that research ‘Good for you! You can do it! But you have to produce the products right here in the United States of America. You have to build those jobs here. If American tax payers are the ones who are going to foot the bill for the research, then by golly it’s going to produce good American jobs right here.’ That’s one part;
- One more part is a commitment to spend about $1.5 trillion to make our government go green. It’s buy the products, and here again it’s going to be all buy american. We’re going to bring in new cars, we’re going to change what happens with our buildings, and look what that does. It not only helps on the climate front, but it creates demand, demand to keep those factories open, demand to expand those factories and those jobs;
- And there’s one more part to it. And that is – look, even if we manage to go entirely carbon neutral by 2030, we’re only about 20% of the world on this. There’s another 80%, and that’s where the worldwide demand for change is. So huge market, $23 trillion market. Right now the chinese spend a hundred times what we spend in the United States marketing their manufactured products around the world. I say we’re going to spend money in the United States to market American products around the world. That’s how we’re going to …. make about 1.2 million new jobs. Jobs in manufacturing that are going to be good union jobs. The kind of jobs on which people can build a future.”
At the first Democratic presidential debate on June 26, Warren was one of four candidates on stage to name climate change as the top geopolitical threat facing the United States.
Warren co-sponsored Jeff Merkley’s Keep It In the Ground Act in 2015 and 2017.
In September 2018 Warren introduced a bill that would require public companies to disclose the risks climate change poses to their operations. Prior to that, she had been criticized for her lack of leadership on the issue.
Warren co-sponsored Senator Markey’s Green New Deal resolution, saying, “If we want to live in a world with clean air and water, we have to take real action to combat climate change now. I’m proud to join Senator Markey and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez on a Green New Deal resolution to fight for our planet and our kids’ futures.”
Yang has not released any climate plans to date.
Yang’s campaign website says that “Climate change is an existential threat to humanity and our way of life. It should be a top priority of the federal government to implement policies to control anthropogenic climate change while working with other governments to implement these policies throughout the world…. As President, I will:
- Invest heavily in carbon capture and geoengineering technologies designed to reverse the damage already done to the environment through a new Global Geoengineering Institute and invite international participation;
- Invest in any idea that has the potential to reverse the damage done to the environment, for example cloud-seeding technology to increase the atmosphere’s reflectivity;
- End the current tax benefits and cuts given to fossil fuel companies which give them an unwarranted competitive advantage over alternative energy sources;
- Institute a tax on emissions that will fund health care initiatives and research for respiratory diseases that are a direct result of these emissions;
- Empower and appoint an action-oriented leader of the EPA and direct the EPA to regulate carbon emissions;
- Direct the EPA to survey the states and private organizations to collate all programs designed to promote renewable energy adoption;
- Direct the EPA to coordinate with state and local governments to measure the impact of different policies on effecting positive impacts in the area of renewables adoption;
- Prioritize sustainable infrastructure and urban development to take advantage of new materials and designs.”
His website also describes his plans to institute a $40/ton carbon fee and dividend that will fund his universal basic income proposal, a host of ideas to modernize the electrical grid, and a plan to increase construction of new nuclear power plants.
Yang has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
On April 29, a group of students dressed as penguins asked Yang if he would put addressing climate change at the center of his campaign. He responded,
“100% yes. Climate change is an existential threat to our way of life… [but] in a society where 78% of people are having trouble paying their bills it’s difficult to galvanize energy around climate change, [and] I still stand by that. If you go to someone and say we need to address climate change and they can’t pay their bills then they might look up at you and say the penguins can wait in line, I can’t pay my bills. So what we have to do is get the economic boot off people’s throats and then they’re going to hopefully realize that we need to address climate change.”
Announced Republican Candidates
President Donald J. Trump
Trump has not released any climate plans to date.
Trump’s campaign website touts the fact that he and his administration:
- “Kept [our] campaign promise to get America out of the Paris Climate Agreement”;
- “directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP)”;
- “reconsidered Obama-era rule on methane emissions that would cost American energy developers an estimated $530 million annually”;
- “signed an Executive Order to expand offshore oil and gas drilling and open more leases to develop offshore drilling”;
- “approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, supporting an estimated total of 42,000 indirect jobs and $2 billion in wages”;
- “Signed legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to domestic energy production.”
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the scientific consensus about climate change, claiming he has a “natural instinct for science.”
He told reporters on November 27, 2018 that he doesn’t believe the findings from the U.S. 4th National Climate Assessment, produced by his own administration, which reinforced the scientific consensus that climate change is largely caused by human activity and warned of the dire consequences of continuing to emit greenhouse gasses at current levels.
He told the Washington Post later that day that “a lot of people like myself — we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers [in climate change]. You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean.”
NRDC’s Bob Deans has written at length about the environmental damage Trump and his administration have produced.
NRDC (Trump Watch) and National Geographic have kept detailed timelines of all his administration’s changes to environmental policy, including air and water pollution, deregulation, and rollback of Obama era climate rules.
Trump has questioned the science behind climate change for years on his personal Twitter account:
- “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (Nov 6, 2012)
- “It’s freezing outside, where the hell is ‘global warming’??” (May 25, 2013)
- “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” (Dec 6, 2013)
- “Wow, it’s snowing in Isreal and on the pyramids in Egypt. Are we still wasting billions on the global warming con? MAKE U.S. COMPETITIVE!” (Dec 14, 2013)
- “When will our country stop wasting money on global warming and so many other truly “STUPID” things and begin to focus on lower taxes?” (Feb 4, 2014)
- “It’s late in July and it is really cold outside in New York. Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING??? We need some fast! It’s now CLIMATE CHANGE” (July 28, 2014)
- “Just out – the POLAR ICE CAPS are at an all time high, the POLAR BEAR population has never been stronger. Where the hell is global warming?” (Oct 29, 2014)
Gov. William Weld
Weld has not released any climate plans to date.
Weld’s campaign website does not include any references to climate change.
At a speech on February 15 announcing his exploratory committee for president at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, Weld said,
“With respect to the environment and climate change, the approach of the current administration is antithetical to every principle of conservation and conservatism, and every tenet of Theodore Roosevelt’s Grand Old Party. Whether it’s as protection of a fragile ecosystem or as stewardship of God’s creation, take your choice, there’s a pressing need to act on climate change. The United States must rejoin the Paris climate accords and adopt targets consistent with those of other industrialized nations. We must protect our economy, yes, but we must also recognize that increased natural disasters and unfamiliar weather patterns actually threaten to strip the snow from our white mountains and to melt all the mountain glaciers worldwide upon which hundreds of millions of people depend for their only water supply. Europe has its cathedrals and monuments. We have our mountains, canyons, valleys, rivers and streams, and we had damn well better take care of them. Our borders are safe here in New Hampshire, but it’s not a stretch to say if climate change isn’t addressed our coastlines and those of all other countries will be obliterated by storm surge and the melting of the polar ice cap. Yet climate skeptics claim that they are conservative!”
In his announcement on April 15 that he will be mounting a primary challenge to Donald Trump, Weld cited climate change among his many reasons for entering the race: “The president is just not dealing with serious issues such as global warming and climate change. That’s a real threat to us as a country. And for the president to just say it’s a hoax, that’s not responsible government.”
On April 16 during a visit to New Hampshire, Weld again emphasized that he would take a different approach to climate change: “I wouldn’t turn my back on climate change and global warming the way Mr. Trump has.… The Republican Party should not put its head in the sand on climate change.”
Colleagues who worked with Weld to pass environmental legislation during his time as Governor of Massachusetts describe him as “a great environmentalist” and “a Teddy Roosevelt, old New England Republican type of politician, with a view that conservation is an inherent value for the state and certainly for the country.”
Photo: Joe Crimmings