Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar walk onto the stage during the South Carolina Democratic debate in Charleston o Feb. 25, 2020. [Josh Morgan/The Greenville News via Imagn]
Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar walk onto the stage during the South Carolina Democratic debate in Charleston o Feb. 25, 2020. [Josh Morgan/The Greenville News via Imagn]

Candidates Promote Varying Climate Policy Plans

Navigating presidential campaign websites and deciphering the “promises” or “plans” of every candidate can sometimes be difficult. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the environmental policy stances of the top eight presidential candidates:

Amy Klobuchar 

Democratic Sen. Amy Klubochar’s policies on climate change, according to her website, waste no time revealing the urgency of the issue. The first sentence of the section states that climate change is not an issue for future generations, but one that needs to be tackled right now and head on. Klobuchar lists climate action as an urgent priority and is a proponent of the Green New Deal. Klobuchar’s plan commits to getting the U.S. back in the Paris Agreement, restoring the Clean Power Plan and putting the country on “a path to 100% net zero emissions by 2050,” according to her website. Klobuchar also commits to investing in green infrastructure and jobs. Inside Climate News reported that Klobuchar introduced a carbon tracking bill in her early years as a US senator, and also that she plans to regulate the fracking industry but not ban it completely. Klobuchar was given a C+ by Greenpeace, who said that although she supports “ending oil and gas drilling on public lands and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies … her climate plan lacks the level of detail and ambition.”

Bernie Sanders 

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Democrat Bernie Sanders also lists implementing a “Green New Deal” as a key part of his environmental policy. Sanders’ ambition is to “Transform our energy system to 100% renewable energy and create 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis,” asserting that complete carbon neutralization will happen by 2050 under his climate policies, according to his website. Sanders also says that this play will “pay for itself in 15 years,” through the rescaling of other government spending as well as generating revenue through the collection of income tax from the new 20 million jobs created. The New York Times reported last year that Sanders also released “a $16.3 trillion blueprint to fight climate change,” which declares climate change to be a national emergency, focuses on renewable energy and commits to helping poor nations with the adverse effects of climate change. Sanders was the highest ranking candidate on Greenpeace, earning an A+ rating. 

Bill Weld

Republican candidate Bill Weld, former Govenor of Massechusetts, lists climate change on his campaign site as an issue that he will tackle in office. He asserts that climate change poses “an existential threat to our planet,” and that this issue “must go to the top of the list for concerted action by the nations of the world.” He also says in the climate plan that “acting on climate change is a moral obligation … [and] the means and methods by which we take those actions must be relentlessly rational.” In his two page plan, Weld commits to immediately rejoin Paris Accord, and also to reclaim the traditional role of the U.S. as a global leader. Also in the plan is a commitment to enact a carbon price in the first 100 days, as well as “the elimination or preemption of duplicative taxes and regulations such as the federal gas tax and energy sector tax subsidies.” Fox News reported earlier this month that Weld “called out” President Donald Trump “for not making an effort to combat climate change.” Despite his climate plan, Weld was given an F from Greenpeace. The organization stated that Weld has said the Green New Deal is  “probably more than I could sit still for,” and that he “has not released concrete plans to phase out fossil fuels and tackle the climate crisis if elected.”

Donald Trump

There is no delegated “climate change” section on President Donald Trump’s campaign website, but there is a section called “Energy and Environment.” Under this section, there is a list of achievements that the current President has reached during his term, many of which relate to expanding offshore drilling, unleash[ing] oil and gas production in the U.S., rescinding President Obama’s “costly” Clean Power Plan and replacing it with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, among other energy-related accomplishments. Another achievement listed is that “President Trump announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the unfair Paris Climate Agreement.” While there is no language indicating an attack on climate change, the president did enact a “Superfund” to clean up 10 polluted sites in the U.S. that demanded “intense, immediate action.” The New York Times reported last year that 95 environmental protection rules have been rolled back under the current administration. Greenpeace gave the President a failing grade on his climate policy, stating that “he denies the reality of the climate crisis and is actively promoting fossil fuels while weakening existing climate protections.”

Elizabeth Warren

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s website says that she is committed to mitigating climate change with force and with policy change. Her campaign is advocating for a “Green New Deal,” which “commits the United States to a 10 year mobilization to achieve,” according to Warren’s site. Warren lists an array of “Climate Plans,” which include reformations of “clean air & water, corporate responsibility, green jobs” and several others. Climate change is listed as a top priority for Warren. An article in Politico reported that in 2019 Warren released an aggressive climate action plan that would spend “$3 trillion under a 10-year plan to move the U.S. to 100% clean energy, spur economic development with a raft of new jobs and protect poor communities dependent on fossil fuels.” Warren was given an A rating on her environmental policy by Greenpeace, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to ending the climate crisis. 

Joe Biden 

Former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden’s website lists his climate policy as a “Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice,” which includes using the Green New Deal as a “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Biden also recognizes that the environment and the economy are intrinsically connected, according to his site. His plan includes becoming carbon neutral by 2050, being a global leader in the fight against climate change, and “stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.” The New York Times reports that while Biden has the most experience in fighting climate change in office some voters like Michaelyn Mankel, who is a volunteer for the Sunrise Movement, are reluctant. “This far along in his campaign, it seems he is still ill-prepared to answer a serious question about the climate crisis,” Mankel told The Times. Greenpeace awarded Biden a B+ on his climate policy, nothing that he supports the Green New Deal but that “he has not committed to fully ban new fossil fuel drilling on public lands and waters, nor halt federal permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Mike Bloomberg 

Democrat Mike Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York, asserts on his website that in order to mitigate the climate crisis, he will lead a nationwide push to rebuild American communities and infrastructure with 100% clean energy technology, reducing carbon pollution 50% by 2030.” The site also says that Bloomberg will “put more electric cars on the road,” in order to reduce emissions. He also importantly notes that he will make environmental justice a “national priority.” According to Inside Climate News, as mayor of New York, Bloomberg created a comprehensive climate action plan after superstorm Sandy. Bloomberg also endorsed the idea of a carbon tax. Bloomberg was given a D+ from Greenpeace; the website said he “does not fully support a Green New Deal,” nor has he published a comprehensive plan to phase out fossil fuels. 

Pete Buttigieg

Democrat Pete Buttigieg, former Mayor of South Bend, outlines on his website a climate plan that has three broad tenants: “build a clean economy, invest in resilience and demonstrate leadership.” Some of the goals that enderly these tenants include increased use of clean energy, reduction of fossil fuels, tax credits for commercial building efficiency, supporting farmers and ranchers to implement sustainable farming techniques and an array of other plans. Buttigieg also places an emphasis on rebuilding the job market in order to provide jobs in the clean energy sector.  Politico reported that this plan would cost between $1.5 and $2 trillion to enact. The same article notes that Buttigieg’s plan “targets at least one gigaton of annual carbon dioxide removal capacity deployed by 2040, including direct air capture. The tax credit to capture carbon, known as 45Q, would be extended and broadened.” Buttigiege was given a B+ by Greenpeace, who said that the candidate has a plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, but that “his plan leans on risky carbon capture technology that could extend the fossil fuel era. He signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge but has not committed to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for their contributions to the climate crisis.”

Regardless of your political views on climate or any other national issue, exercising your right to vote is essential. Saturday is the last day for early voting in the primary election in North Carolina. 

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