A Guide to the 2020 Democratic Primaries

Climate crisis edition

84

By Alex Dodd and Karen Lowe

There are six weeks until Super Tuesday, March 3. With the addition of California in the presidential primary vote on Super Tuesday this year, over a third of the U.S. population is expected to vote. To prepare, read City on a Hill Press’s guide on the leading Democratic candidates’ views, policies and positions.

This week, read about the candidates’ records and positions on the climate crisis and environment. 

Candidates listed either polled above five percent based on RealClearPolitics’ California average as of Jan. 4 to 16, or participated in the Jan. 14 debate in Iowa — the last debate before the Iowa Caucuses on Feb. 3. 

Joe Biden, 77
Former vice president under President Barack Obama
23.5%

Biden’s Clean Energy Revolution plan focuses on using the Green New Deal as a framework for fighting the climate crisis. His plan prioritizes challenging fossil fuel companies and supporting communities of color and low-income communities. Biden would commit $1.7 trillion in federal funds over the next 10 years to fight the climate crisis. 

In 1986, Biden introduced the first climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate, and has a lifetime score of 83 percent from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). However, the Obama administration he served expanded U.S. oil and natural gas exports and lifted the 40-year ban on crude oil exports. 

Bernie Sanders, 78
Senator from Vermont
23.3%

Sanders’ plan would enact the Green New Deal and create 20 million new jobs with a nationwide transition to completely renewable energy before 2030, a more ambitious timeline than other candidates. Sanders would move to reenter the Paris Agreement and invest $200 billion in the Green Climate Fund, which aims to equitably distribute green technologies to the Global South. Sanders would commit $16.3 trillion in federal funds over the next 10 years and declare the climate crisis a national emergency. 

Sanders has a 92 percent lifetime score from the LCV. In 2009, he successfully pushed the Obama administration to include $3.2 billion in its stimulus package for locally distributed energy efficiency grants. It was the largest investment in renewable energy at a local level in U.S. history. 

Elizabeth Warren, 70 
Senator from Massachusetts
20.8%

Warren says she will prioritize addressing the climate crisis in her first 100 days by rolling back on Trump administration policies and adopting Green New Deal goals like transitioning domestic sectors to clean energy by 2030. Her plan includes environmental protection laws like the Clean Air and Water Acts, and focuses on producing clean energy in both public and private sectors. Warren would spend $3 trillion in federal funds to address the climate crisis.

As a senator, Warren’s voting record on environmental issues is strong. In September 2018, she introduced the Climate Disclosure Act, which would have required public companies to disclose their exposure to climate-related risks. She has a 99 percent lifetime score from the LCV.

Pete Buttigieg, 38
Mayor of South Bend, IN
8.8%

Buttigieg’s plan pivots on three central pillars — Build a Clean Economy​, Invest in Resilience, and Demonstrate Leadership — which would each tackle a different facet of the climate crisis by 2050. Buttigieg would spend $2 trillion in federal funds to address the climate crisis, according to NPR. Of that, $200 billion would be invested in the development of new technologies, and another $250 billion would go to local-led green initiatives.

As mayor, Buttigieg created the Office of Sustainability and led efforts to improve the draining capacity of the city’s stormwater drains. However, his 2020 campaign has relied on big-dollar fundraisers, one of which was hosted by a real estate executive who is a longtime investor in oil and gas companies. 

Amy Klobuchar, 59
Senator from Minnesota
2.8%

Under Klobuchar’s first 100 days of office, the U.S. would reenter the Paris Agreement, set carbon dioxide emission standards for states through the Clean Power Plan and counter Trump administration policies by reinstating fuel economy standards and the National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee. Klobuchar would spend $2 trillion in federal funds on climate crisis over 10 years.

As a senator, Klobuchar introduced multiple pieces of legislation related to curbing emissions and expanding renewable energy. She has also pushed back on calls to ban fracking and advocated on behalf of natural gas as a transition fuel. 

Tom Steyer, 62
California billionaire  
2.3%

“Climate justice,” as Steyer puts it, is a cornerstone of his presidential platform. Steyer would make the climate crisis a national emergency, set a goal for the nation to use 100 percent clean electricity by 2040 and halt construction and usage of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. His plan would also establish the Civilian Climate Corps and create 1 million jobs. Steyer would spend $2 trillion in federal funds on the climate crisis over 10 years. 

Though he places the climate crisis at the center of his campaign, part of Steyer’s fortune comes from investments in fossil fuels. The firm Steyer founded in 1986, Farallon Capital Management, still has hundreds of millions of dollars invested in overseas coal development, even though Steyer claims Farallon divested in fossil fuels 10 years ago. Steyer also has holdings in a private equity firm that still invests in fossil  fuels. 

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Karen Lowe is a city reporter at City on a Hill Press. Beginning her career as a fact-checker, she gained a passion for asking questions and getting stories right. She believes using facts is a key part in supplementing the human voice. Since her time as a fact-checker, she has worked as a campus reporter and editor—reading, talking and asking questions to uncover stories hidden in the community—social media editor and arts and culture reporter. You can view her work here or on her website at karenkayelowe.com . She can be contacted at klowe@cityonahillpress.com and followed on Twitter @karenkayelowe.