[Updated September 4, 2019 to include new climate plans from Castro, Harris, and Buttigieg.]
Climate change will take center stage in the Democratic presidential campaign this week as candidates take part Wednesday in a marathon CNN Town Hall on the Climate Crisis.
Polls show that climate change has become a top-tier issue among Democratic voters. And that priority is reflected in the sweeping scope and, in some cases, extensive detail of the climate plans put forth by the candidates.
All of the ten candidates who qualified for the September 10 Democratic debate, and by extension the CNN town hall, have released detailed climate plans. They are: Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-N.Y.), and Andrew Yang.
As a nonpartisan organization, C2ES does not endorse candidates, but we do try to help voters understand where the candidates stand. Toward that end, we’ve taken some time to review the candidates’ climate plans and platforms ahead of the climate town hall. Here are some takeaways:
- All candidates support the Paris Agreement and increasing international efforts to reduce emissions.
- All candidates support the idea of a Green New Deal. And all of the candidates who are sitting senators have co-sponsored the Green New Deal Resolution introduced in Congress. Sanders’ climate plan is his version of a Green New Deal, and Warren’s Green Manufacturing Plan is part of how she’ll implement a Green New Deal.
- More than half of the candidates (Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar, and Yang) explicitly support setting a price on carbon as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Two (Biden and O’Rourke) call for a legally enforceable mechanism/standard, which could take the form of carbon pricing. Sanders calls for making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, which includes fees. And Warren is open to the idea of pricing carbon.
- Almost all of the candidates’ plans include an economy-wide emissions reduction target. Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and O’Rourke call for net-zero emissions by 2050; Sanders calls for complete decarbonization by 2050; Yang calls for net-zero emissions by 2049; and Booker, Castro, and Harris call for carbon neutrality by 2045.
- Some candidates differ significantly on the role of different energy sources and technologies. Sanders’ plan, for instance, explicitly excludes nuclear power and carbon capture, while Biden, Booker and Yang support continued use of nuclear energy. While all candidates call for regulating methane emissions and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, they differ on fossil fuel infrastructure. Booker would ban fossil fuel infrastructure after 2025. Sanders would ban fossil fuel infrastructure and require remaining fossil fuel infrastructure owners to buy bonds to pay for disaster impacts at the local level. Yang would oppose new pipelines or similar infrastructure and Harris would oppose new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
- Most candidate climate plans would strengthen fuel economy/greenhouse gas standards for cars. All of the candidates’ plans call for building public transportation infrastructure. Almost all (Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren and Yang) call for building of EV charging infrastructure. And Biden, Buttigieg, and Yang call for R&D to reduce airplane emissions.
- All of the candidates’ climate plans include actions to spur domestic manufacturing of clean energy. For example, Biden and Warren would provide $400 billion over ten years for clean energy R&D. Buttigieg would provide more than $250 billion over ten years for clean energy R&D and would establish investment funds to spur clean energy deployment.
- Almost all call for actions to build resilience to a changing climate. For example, O’Rourke calls for increasing pre-disaster mitigation grants, changing laws so rebuilding is more resilient, expanding federal crop insurance, and investing in climate readiness. Yang calls for “moving to higher ground,” providing $40 billion to help people relocate, and $30 billion to help coastal cities cope with sea-level rise.
- All would protect frontline communities and/or communities of color disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. For example, Booker would increase staffing at EPA enforcement offices to protect communities suffering from environmental injustices. And Harris would push for legislation that would require environmental- and climate-related legislation receive an equity score that will estimate its impact on frontline communities.
- All would provide assistance for workers and communities to transition away from fossil-fuel industries to a more diversified economy. For example, Biden would fulfill obligated pensions and healthcare benefits for fossil-fuel workers impacted by the transition, and O’Rourke would provide funds for economic diversification and development for impacted communities.
- More than half of the candidate’s climate plans (Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, O’Rourke, Warren, and Yang) would require public companies to disclose their climate risk. Warren has introduced legislation that would require this type of disclosure.
While we’ve highlighted some similarities and differences among them, it’s encouraging to see all the candidates advocating such ambitious action. Perhaps our key takeaway is that climate change is finally getting the national-level attention it needs. At the same time, it’s important to remember that achieving such ambitions requires the support of Congress too. And for climate policy to be durable, that support must be bipartisan.
We look forward to seeing how the climate issue continues to shape up in the 2020 election cycle, and to offering further posts to help voters understand their choices.