Monday, September 9, 2019

Ten Climate Proposals from the Leading Democratic Presidential Candidates

For the first time ever, all of the leading Democratic presidential candidates agree that climate change is a high priority issue that demands urgent action. They all released climate proposals ahead of the historic climate town halls on September 4th.

There is a great deal of agreement between the leading Democratic contenders. They all want to reverse Trump's actions and rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. They all support zero-emissions, carbon-neutral electricity, the electrification of transportation and ending federal fossil fuel subsidies.

The candidates also share a common focus on socioeconomic disparities. They want to address inequality through climate action that assists vulnerable people in minority and other disadvantaged communities. They all offer varying degrees of support for the Green New Deal.

However, they differ on timelines and how they will pay for their plans. Some favor fining polluters, others prefer a carbon tax. Many want to end tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry and/or increase taxation on the wealthy.

Candidates are jockeying for the role of pack leading climate hawk. The position was vacated when former Washington governor Jay Inslee dropped out of the race last month. Both Warren and Castro have met with Inslee or his people, however, their climate proposals still fall short of Sanders's plan.

Bernie Sanders

  • $16.3 trillion investment
  • Carbon neutrality by 2030

Sanders makes it clear that he wants to lead the world to address the climate crisis. He wants to see 16.3 trillion in federal spending in a World War II style mobilization that would touch almost every sector of the economy. In addition to the size of the federal investment, Sander's proposal is unique in terms of time-frames. He wants the U.S. to be carbon neutral by 2030. He wants to transition away from fossil fuels and immediately ban energy extraction. Sander's plan includes 100 percent renewable energy which Sander's claims will produce 20 million jobs. He also wants to use the courts to level criminal charges against companies who conceal knowledge of harm caused by their products or services.

Elizabeth Warren

  • $2 trillion investment
  • Carbon neutrality by 2035

Warren has largely adopted Inslee's plan with some tweaks and additions. Warren has proposed a $2 trillion investment in green manufacturing, research and development. She wants to take the innovations produced through this investment and market them abroad. She recently added another $1 trillion to achieve zero-carbon emissions and the timelines breakdown as follows: New buildings by 2028, vehicles including trucks and buses by 2030 and electricity by 2035.

Kamala Harris

  • $10 trillion investment (public and private)
  • Carbon neutrality by 2045

Harris wants to invest $10 trillion in private and public money to make the U.S. economy carbon-neutral by 2045. Her plan dovetails with the Climate Equity Act put forward by her and Rep. Axexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Harris also wants to increase penalties for companies that violate federal pollution laws and she wants to restore the polluter pays model to fund the superfund program.

Cory Booker

  • $10 trillion investment
  • Carbon neutrality by 2045

Like Harris, Booker wants to invest $10 trillion to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. He wants to pay Americans a climate dividend with money raised through carbon fees levied against fossil fuel producers.

Julian Castro

  • $10 trillion investment

Although the details are not clear, Castro also wants to see $10 trillion in spending. His plan emphasizes addressing economic inequality with civil rights legislation that will tackle environmental discrimination and environmental racism.

Beto O'Rourke

  • $5 trillion investment 
  • Carbon neutrality by 2050

O'Rourke wants to leverage a $5 trillion investment to get to zero emissions by 2050. He envisions a $1.5 trillion investment to reform energy and transportation infrastructure. O'Rourke is unique in wanting to work through Congress to set legally enforceable environmental standards including greenhouse gas emissions.

Joe Biden

  • $1.7 trillion investment
  • Carbon neutrality by 2050

Biden's plan adds to the work done by the Obama's administration while he was vice president. He would dedicate $1.7 trillion to eliminate GHG emissions by the middle of the century. He would end fossil fuels subsidies and ban new oil and gas permits on public lands. Biden embraces climate science and is calling for a timely clean energy revolution.

Pete Buttigieg

  • $1.5 and 2 trillion investment (to leverage tens of trillions)

Buttigieg envisions spending between $1.5 and 2 trillion to leverage tens of trillions of dollars in private, state and local investment to combat climate change. He wants to invest another $25 billion in climate research and create a Climate Watch Floor in the Department of Defense. Buttigieg wants to make $1 trillion available to the economically disadvantaged.

Amy Klobuchar

  • Carbon neutrality by 2050

Klobuchar wants to see zero-emissions by 2050. She also wants to bring back the Obama era clean power plan and gas mileage standards killed by Trump. She wants to work with Congress and take aggressive executive action.

Andrew Yang


Yang wants to massively invest in technology including decarbonization research. He sees sea level rise as inevitable and as a consequence he is focused on climate adaptation. He wants to move people away from low lying flood prone areas.

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