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2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates: Where They Stand On Climate Policy

Emily Dao

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White House

A CNN poll discovered 82% of registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents cared about enacting aggressive policies to tackle climate change. With twenty-four Democrats currently running for office, it’s important for voters to know where the 2020 candidates stand on climate policy.

Despite voters’ concern for the nation’s approach to climate, few have announced detailed policy proposals to stop this crisis.

Joe Biden

What do we know about Joe Biden’s stance on climate change? | The Rising

Joe Biden has faced criticism by many Democrats for being too moderate on climate. However, Biden’s new $5 trillion climate proposal is a lot more expansive and progressive than critics expected.

Biden’s campaign said, “On day one, Biden will sign a series of new executive orders with an unprecedented reach that goes well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track.”

In Biden’s plan, he promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement and pressure and assist other foreign powers in committing to climate targets. Further, he hopes to invest in clean energy research and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Biden plans to finance $1.7 trillion of the project from federal spending by undoing President Trump’s corporate tax cuts. The campaign says the rest will be funded by state and local governments, as well as private companies.

“Science tells us that how we act or fail to act in the next 12 years will determine the very livability of our planet,” Biden said in a statement. “That’s why I’m calling for a clean energy revolution to confront this crisis and do what America does best—solve big problems with big ideas.”

Bernie Sanders

Bernie labeled climate change as the "single greatest threat facing our planet" in the 2016 elections.
Bernie labeled climate change as the “single greatest threat facing our planet” in the 2016 elections.

Only recently has climate change become a priority among presidential candidates and a concern among voters. When Bernie labeled climate change as the “single greatest threat facing our planet” last election, few took him seriously.

Sanders’s view on the urgency of climate change

However, after growing concerns for climate change, what once seemed like an overly dramatic stance has become standard for many 2020 candidates. In fact, many 2020 contenders have echoed Sanders’ sentiment, declaring climate change as the nation’s most pressing threat today.

Candidates’ stance on the Green New Deal may also contribute to their popularity among voters. The bold non-binding resolution, introduced by AOC and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, aimed to address climate change and economic inequality. Although the resolution expectantly didn’t pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, conversation on climate change didn’t stop there. If anything, it only gave more attention to the call for environmental change.

Almost all of the Democratic candidates have either expressed support for the Green New Deal or proposed alternative plans. Six presidential candidates even co-sponsored the Green New Deal: Sanders, Warren, Booker, Harris, Klobuchar, and Gillibrand.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren calls for a $2 trillion climate plan spread over 10 years.
Senator Elizabeth Warren calls for a $2 trillion climate plan spread over 10 years.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren called for a $2 trillion climate plan to be spread over 10 years on clean energy research, manufacturing, and exporting in order to “achieve the ambitious targets of the Green New Deal,” according to Warren’s website.

Warren plans to invest $400 billion towards developing a National Institutes of Clean Energy modeled after the National Institutes of Health and commit the federal government to spend $150 billion annually for the next decade on products that are clean, environmentally-friendly, and American-made.

Warren’s three-part climate package would also include a $100 billion investment in the Green Marshall Plan, which would assist poorer countries expected to be most afflicted by the effects of climate change. This plan is a nod to the Marshall Plan from World War II, in which America helped fund the rebuilding of Western Europe.

An analysis by Moody’s showed Warren’s proposal would create a quarter-million jobs by 2020, with employment rising to 1.2 million come 2029.

Upon unveiling her plan at a campaign event in Detroit, Michigan, Warren said, “America has faced huge challenges before, WWII and putting a man on the moon. This environmental catastrophe bearing down on us may be the biggest challenge yet.”

Additionally, Warren proposed bicameral legislation alongside Texas Representative Veronica Escobar entitled the Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act (DCRRA). This bill would focus on protecting the military by modernizing their bases to be more resilient to the threat of climate change, as well as making military operations and infrastructure more energy-efficient to create, in Warren’s words, a “green military.”

Kamala Harris

California Senator Kamala Harris released a proposal aimed to alleviate damages created by climate change on low-income communities.
California Senator Kamala Harris released a proposal aimed to alleviate damages created by climate change on low-income communities.

The California Senator released a proposal aimed to alleviate damages created by climate change on low-income communities. Harris teamed up with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for what she’s called The Climate Equity Act, to ensure that all measures taken to fight climate change would also benefit vulnerable communities and groups. This newly unveiled plan would also include the establishment of an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete wants every American household to be a so-called "net-zero" consumer.
Mayor Pete wants every American household to be a so-called “net-zero” consumer.

Buttigieg and has voiced his thoughts on what he believes needs to be done. Mayor Pete wants every American household to be a so-called “net-zero” consumer, according to Grist. The mayor has also called for quadrupled funding for government research on renewable energy and energy storage, and vowed to ban all fossil fuel development on public lands.

Like Warren, though, Buttigieg doesn’t necessarily make climate policy a crucial part of his campaign. However, he agrees with the likes of AOC and others who are very passionate about sustainability and the environment.

Beto O’Rourke

O'Rourke proposed a $5 trillion climate plan.
O’Rourke proposed a $5 trillion climate plan.

Along with Inslee, former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet are among the sole presidential candidates with clear-cut proposals to fight against climate change. O’Rourke proposed a $5 trillion plan emphasizing the need for improved innovation and green infrastructure, while Bennet unveiled his own plan to allocate $1 trillion towards climate change funding. Bennet’s proposal also aims to develop greener technology and infrastructure. Both candidates’ proposals strive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang has a number of ideas a part of his climate policy.
Andrew Yang has a number of ideas a part of his climate policy.

Although Andrew Yang’s flagship policy is Universal Basic Income, he does indeed have a page dedicated to climate policy. On that page, he cites ambitions to invest in carbon capture and geoengineering. Further, Yang looks to revitalize the EPA, invest in urban development, and promote renewable energy adoption.

Recently, we reported that according to a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Yang said that as president, he would dramatically improve the appeal of renewable energy, rejoin the Paris Agreement, implement a carbon fee and dividend, plant a lot of trees, and look towards geoengineering.

Jay Inslee

Governor Inslee is running on a climate platform.
Governor Inslee is running on a climate platform.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee currently leads the fight against climate change among his contenders, largely building his platform around the problem. Inslee has addressed the issue of climate change more thoroughly and frequently than any other candidate, proposing the most ambitious, detailed, and swiftest plan to combat climate change.

Inslee’s $9 trillion climate reform plan, which he calls “The Climate Mission,” has the hopes of achieving 100% clean energy by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2045. Funding would be allocated throughout the course of 10 years, and be used to invest in a cleaner manufacturing economy, modernized infrastructure, more scientific research, and increased jobs with benefits for citizens affected by the weakening of the fossil fuel industry, among others.

To say Inslee’s proposal is detail-oriented would be somewhat of an understatement. Inslee’s second climate change agenda was some 38 pages long, and Inslee plans on releasing three or four more packages addressing the issue.

Inslee also has proposed an environmental justice office, an agency dedicated towards helping low-income communities suffering from the effects of climate change. To do this, the governor said he would convert the White House Council on Environmental Quality into the Council on Environmental Justice.

Additionally, the 2020 election’s most aggressive candidate on climate proposed a ban on “forever chemicals” that pollute the drinking water for millions of Americans. Along with this, just before the second round of primary debates, Inslee released a 36-page climate justice plan. This acts as the fifth addition to Inslee’s otherwise 170-page plan.

However, despite Inslee’s assertive approach towards a cleaner planet, polling data indicates Inslee is barely on the majority of American citizens’ radar for the Democratic nomination.

Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar will put forth "sweeping legislation" to invest more money in clean, renewable energy and infrastructure among others.
Klobuchar will put forth “sweeping legislation” to invest more money in clean, renewable energy and infrastructure among others.

While Klobuchar endorsed the Green New Deal, she has stated it was more of an “aspirational” layout for actual legislation. On Klobuchar’s website, her priorities include reentering the Paris Agreement on day one of her presidency and reinstating the Obama administration’s clean power rules and fuel standards on day two and three.

It also states online that Klobuchar will put forth “sweeping legislation” to invest more money in clean, renewable energy and infrastructure among others.

John Hickenlooper

Governor Hickenlooper believes that the Green New Deal is unachievable.
Governor Hickenlooper believes that the Green New Deal is unachievable.

Thus far, the only Democratic candidate who has opposed the plan is former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Hickenlooper said that the Green New Deal was unachievable. His comments weren’t immune from criticism. Many on the left believe his comments come from his close relations with the gas and oil industry. On the other hand, Hickenlooper looks to encourage the government to work with the private sector rather than oppose it.

Bill de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio joins the fight against climate change.
Mayor de Blasio joins the fight against climate change.

New York City’s Mayor de Blasio is one of the greatest proponents for fighting climate change in the Democratic field. In his words, “We don’t debate climate change in New York City.”

He believes that the implications of climate change are clear. In his plan, de Blasio hopes to elevate parks and building flood barriers to tackle rising sea levels.

Recently, de Blasio also contributed to New York City’s styrofoam ban. As mayor, he made NYC the largest city to institute such a ban.

John Delaney

Delaney looks to implement a carbon tax and invest in greener technologies.
Delaney looks to implement a carbon tax and invest in greener technologies.

Former Maryland Representative John Delaney is one of the latest candidates to put forth a climate reform proposal. Delaney plans to implement a carbon tax and devote $4 trillion towards increased funding for the Department of Energy, specifically to invest in greener technology. Delaney hopes to eliminate 90% of the nation’s carbon emissions by 2050.

What’s Next?

The elections are well underway and the crisis of climate change only continues to become more pressing. Now, it’s just a waiting game to see which candidates choose to enact more aggressive policies to fight climate change.

Last updated: 29 July 2019. This is a developing story that will be updated as more candidates develop their own proposals to combat climate change. If we missed something, let us know at tips@mediusventures.com.

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Russia, the world’s fourth largest polluter, finally joins Paris Agreement

Ari Kelo

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Vladimir Putin, President of Russia

After four years of deliberation, Russia has finally signed the Paris Agreement. On Monday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave formal support for the agreement and ordered that Russia’s laws adapt to fit its regulations.

A new brand for Russia

Hours after signing the decree, PM Medvedev brought the news to a government meeting. There, he outlined a new climate strategy for Russia.

“The threat of climate change is (the) destruction of the ecological balance, increased risks for successful development of key industries… and most importantly, threat to safety of people living on permafrost and increase of natural disasters,” Medvedev said.

Indeed, by joining the accord, Russia has taken a long overdue stance on climate control. As the fourth largest global emitter of greenhouse gases, Russia’s entrance into the agreement can serve as a call to action for other countries not yet committed.

Notably, Russia has chosen to join the accord merely weeks before US President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from it in November.

Does Russia even want the Paris Agreement

Yet despite the seemingly good news, Russia’s decision to join the agreement may have had an ulterior motive.

The decision came just hours before the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. At the summit, Putin’s climate adviser, Ruslan Edelgeriev, broke the news. “The Russian Federation has accepted the Paris Agreement and is becoming a full-fledged participant of this international instrument,” he said.

Russia may be attempting to gain more international support. Its decision to ratify came at a good time, as belief in the accord’s effectiveness is at an all-time low. By finally ratifying, Russia has boosted morale for international climate cooperation.

In an attempt to further garner support for Russian environmental efforts, Edelgeriev explained his country’s progress. “Our total emissions [since 1990] have decreased almost by half. This represent 41 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent which on the planetary scale has allowed to cumulatively hold global warming for an entire year.”

Edelgeriev also mentioned that Russia plans to create a law on emissions by 2020.

This may all be for show

Joining the Paris Agreement means very little for Russia, whose current carbon targets are laughable.

Since the Paris Agreement allows countries to develop their own, non-binding targets for reducing CO2 emissions, Russia chose a very weak target. By 2030, Russia pledges to reduce its emissions to 25-30% less than its emission rates in 1990.

But due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s industries have severely slowed down. So, in 2017, Russia actually polluted 32% less than it did in 1990. Meaning Russia is already below its target.

In other words, Russia can actually increase its pollution while still staying within its target.

Noticing this furtive maneuver, the NGO Climate Action Tracker declared Russia’s targets “critically insufficient.” According to them, if every country followed Russia’s emission rules, global warming could increase 4 degrees.

To make matters worse, Russia is actually increasing coal production and opening new gas and oil plants.

So if Russia seriously wants change, it will need to reevaluate its climate plan.



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Australia urged to move towards a circular economy on recycling

Rich Bowden

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Recycling

Australia should take its cue from the circular economy on recycling, reusing its waste rather than sending it to landfill, says a recent report by business advisory firm EY. It added that Australians need to have confidence in their country’s recycling system and should look upon it as a resource rather than waste.

The accounting firm affirmed a combined approach to waste which included households, local councils and the private sector is needed to “restore faith” in the country’s recycling system. This would lead to the start of a win-win circular economy. 

Such an economy can be achieved when “people minimize waste and make the most of resources. Shifting to a more circular economy will grow the economy, increase jobs and reduce impacts on the environment,” according to the Victorian State Government.

China recycling ban

Australia’s strategy of dealing with its waste by sending it to China for processing was thrown into confusion in 2017. It was then when China decided to tighten the restrictions on contamination for accepting foreign waste. The new standards effectively banned all Australian paper, plastics and textiles because of their high contamination rate. 

Before the Chinese ban, it had been sending 619,000 tonnes of recycling waste to China every year.

A “lost opportunity”

Terence L. Jeyaretnam, an environmental and sustainability expert who is also a partner at EY in Melbourne, described the present methods as an example of a “lost opportunity”.

“Through better sorting of recyclables, reducing contamination and developing markets for our recycled waste, Australia could take advantage of this lost opportunity sitting in our kerbside bins,” he said.

He added that Australians were missing out on up to $324 million of value in our waste bins and needed to change to adapt to the future. 

“The old way of sorting our waste is not the right fit for 21st century Australia,” he said in the study, adding that “not only does it lead to poor environmental outcomes, it’s preventing us from grasping an opportunity worth hundreds of millions per year.”

Restoring belief in the system

The report underlined the need for Australia to view waste as a valuable resource saying it  “will only be realized if households take a more diligent approach to sorting, councils assist though education and infrastructure and there is a greater focus on waste as a resource.”

It points to a lack of confidence currently amongst households with the country’s recycling methods.

“Instead of ‘waste’ we need consumers to see a tradable asset, a commodity with a market value. The first step in changing consumers behavior is restoring their belief that what they are putting in the recycling bin is actually being recycled,” said the discussion paper.

Restoring the customer’s faith in the broken recycling system would be the first step towards creating a viable circular economy and finding a solution to the recycling crisis in Australia, summarized the report.



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Kamala Harris’s climate plan: How does it hold up against the competition?

Maddie Blaauw

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Kamala Harris

In the third Democratic debate last Sunday, 2020 presidential candidates did not spend much time on climate change. However, candidate Kamala Harris made sure to use her time to make a strong stance about acting on climate change now. Harris also released a climate plan earlier this month, her own version of the Green New Deals many other candidates have released. 

During her allotted 45 seconds to summarize her stance on climate policy, Harris focused on the effect of inaction on future generations. In reference to the Republican stance on denying or minimizing the topic, Harris accused them of having a “lack of courage.” She also stated that as president she would “lead as president on this issue because we have no time, the clock is ticking.” However, during the debate time, Harris did not mention many specific details about her plan to take on climate change, besides her history of “[taking] on the big oil companies.” So what specific actions would Harris take as president to fight rising temperatures?

Kamala Harris has a history of advocating for the environment

Harris released a plan detailing her goals as president to act on climate change earlier this month, but even before that, she has backed several pieces of legislation to not only act on the emissions of big companies, but also to protect the Americans who suffer the most from pollution. In July, she joined forces with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to create the “Climate Equity Act.” Covered at length in this article from The Rising, this piece of legislation aimed to first identify and then give assistance to the communities which would suffer climate-related consequences. 

Harris has also referenced taking on big oil companies in her previous job as the attorney general of California. She held this role from 2011 through 2016. While the claim that she has sued oil companies herself is controversial, statements from her campaign spokesman Ian Sams support her claims of more general action against them. Sams stated that she “obtained $50 million in settlements from oil companies she took on like BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66. She also announced criminal indictments against Plains Pipeline for the massive oil spill they caused off the coast (of) Santa Barbara. The case continued after Harris left the AG’s office and resulted in conviction.”

The 2020 presidential candidate also supported a carbon tax at a CNN forum on climate change. As this was common among the other democrats who attended the event, Harris took a step to set herself apart even further and voiced support for even more aggressive policy, including an outright ban on offshore drilling for oil and hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking). 

Harris’s $10 trillion plan

Following the trend of other presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders releasing plans of action for a presidential term specifically pertaining to environmental policy, Harris also released her own, right before the climate forum. While the general ideas of her plan was similar to those in Green New Deals already released, there are certainly notable differences. 

First, the presidential candidate sets a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2045, five years faster than the United Nation’s recommended date of 2050. She would invest $10 trillion into reviving and overhauling infrastructure to achieve this. Possible methods of raising this money could come from the carbon tax backed by nearly all democratic candidates and even some of the republican candidates. 

Other goals from Kamala Harris that are less common among the Green New Deals currently circulating are to pass new fuel economy standards by 2035 to ensure that all new passenger vehicles would emit zero emissions. She would also expand the clean energy tax credit program beyond its current reaches to achieve total carbon-neutral electricity in 10 years. 

Perhaps the thing that Kamala Harris stresses most in her plan, though is that it is for the people of the world, not against big companies. While it certainly does aim to put legislation in place against these companies to achieve set goals, the focus is always brought back to protecting those that cannot protect themselves from big company carbon emissions. Harris frequently references her Climate Equity Act in the plan, making it a central component. Many believe that this feature allows her plan to be more well-rounded; it is not just about punishing the companies who hurt the environment, but also about supporting those who are and will suffer the most from the pollution. 



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