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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.[Update: Andrew Yang has since suspended his presidential campaign.]
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.
[Update: Kamala Harris has since dropped out of the presidential race.]
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.[Update: Beto O’Rourke has since dropped out of the presidential race.]
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.
[Update: Jay Inslee has since dropped out of the presidential race.]
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.
[Update: John Hickenlooper has since dropped out of the presidential race.]
Bill de Blasio
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.
[Update: Bill de Blasio has since dropped out of the presidential race.]
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.
[Update: John Delaney has since dropped out of the presidential race.]
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: 15 February 2020. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.