As the evidence of climate change gets harder to ignore, coming up with ways to address the crisis has become a hot topic for the 2020 presidential candidates. Most of the Democratic candidates aim to have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A few are toting aggressive plans such as the Green New Deal, the “Climate X Option,” and a “Climate Corps” to aid low-income areas. On top of this, all of the Democratic candidates have promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. On the Republican side of the race, the three candidates running against Donald Trump have acknowledged the issue but have provided little in the way of concrete plans of action.
Of all the plans being supported by Democratic candidates, perhaps the most well-known is the Green New Deal (GND). The main goals of the GND include transitioning the United States towards more renewable sources of energy, reducing pollution from the transportation and manufacturing sectors, and creating jobs for Americans. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have all heavily included this plan in their visions for tackling climate change. Sanders’ plan comes out as much more expensive than other candidates at $16.3 trillion. His version of this deal would also declare climate change a national emergency and invest $200 billion into the international community to help other countries reach their emissions goals. In addition to the GND, Warren plans to implement a “Green Apollo Program” that will include $400 billion in research and development funding for clean energy and the creation of a National Institute of Clean Energy.
Other candidates have focused on environmental justice as a cornerstone for their plans. Kamala Harris’ plan includes the Climate Equity Act, which aims to protect vulnerable communities who often bear the brunt of climate change’s consequences. Marianne Williamson plans to ban fracking operations and embrace the Clean Power Plan as a path to reducing dependence on fossil fuels. According to her website, she would also prioritize communities of color and indigenous communities. Amy Klobuchar supports the restoration of the Clean Power Plan as well as giving rural areas more access to green energy. Tom Steyer’s “Justice Centered Climate Plan” includes the creation of a “Climate Corps” to assist low-income communities in developing greener economies and creating jobs. Julián Castro plans to pass legislation that would address environmental discrimination, as well as implementing “Equity Scoring” on federal projects to ensure that vulnerable communities are taken into account when policies are created.
Some candidates are relying on different economic solutions. John Delaney, in addition to the creation of a Climate Corps, supports a “Carbon Fee and Dividend” proposal. The plan would tax carbon emitters and redistribute the money to Americans as a market incentive to reduce emissions. Delaney claims on his website that this plan would reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2050. Andrew Yang’s unique plan involves investing in nuclear energy, which does not release carbon emissions. Yang also intends to relocate those affected by rising sea levels with $40 billion in relocation or home elevation subsidies. Other market-based approaches include Beto O’Rourke’s plan to restructure the tax code to provide $1.5 trillion out of a planned $5 trillion in investments over 10 years. O’Rourke and several other candidates also plan to end tax subsidies for fossil fuel companies. Pete Buttigieg’s approach relies on heavy investment into clean energy, as well as supporting sustainability projects in the Department of Agriculture.
Among the rest of the democratic candidates, plans vary. Michael Bennet’s plan involves a “Climate X Option,” which would require power providers to offer green energy options to businesses and households. According to his website, Steve Bullock plans to set “realistic” emission reduction goals for the military, but there is little to suggest what those goals might be. A highlight of Cory Booker’s plan is to revoke the executive orders approving the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. Joe Sestak has plans for a permanent moratorium on all future offshore and Arctic drilling operations. Tim Ryan, though without a formal plan, has highlighted the importance of dominating the electric vehicle market. Tulsi Gabbard has yet to release a formal plan of action but has called the issue “personal” to her as she is from Hawaii. Wayne Messam, according to his campaign website, plans to take “bold, direct climate action,” but has not yet elaborated on what that action would actually be.