It’s been a big week for advancing the climate discussion in the 2020 presidential primaries and our collective efforts to raise the bar for real climate leadership.
On Monday, Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan for the U.S.’s public lands, which includes an important commitment to sign a moratorium on new fossil fuel leases on public lands and public waters on Day One of her presidency. The plan also includes important elements such as heavy investments in green jobs and respect for Indigenous sovereignty, including exploring co-management and the return of resources to Indigenous protection wherever possible.
Later on Monday, Senator Bernie Sanders joined in by releasing an updated climate platform from his campaign to “Combat Climate Change and Passing a Green New Deal.” The platform focuses on Sanders’ plans to create millions of high-quality jobs, transition to 100% sustainable energy, ban fracking and all new fossil fuel infrastructure, and ban fossil fuel leases on public lands, end exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil, and more.
And today, the New York Times released the results of a “climate policy survey” sent to all 18 major presidential campaigns, asking contenders a variety of questions regarding their plans to confront the climate crisis. It’s worth noting that not all candidates responded to all questions on the survey, and that Senator Sanders declined to go on the record with official statements in many cases. But, caveats aside, these new survey results provide an interesting window into how candidates are planning to confront the fossil fuel industry and the climate crisis, and specifically into how they’re willing to discuss these issues in a public forum.
Expressing vague support for the Paris Agreement and renewable energy is good, but it’s far from sufficient in a time of rapidly mounting climate impacts and new reports on a weekly basis showing what a deep hole the world is in on climate. Even as candidates are talking more about climate change than the past elections, we’ve yet to see most of them lay out detailed plans to deal with it. That’s why we’ve joined the push for a Democratic primary debate focused solely on climate crisis and candidates’ specific plans to phase out fossil fuel extraction and accelerate the clean energy transition.
Real climate leadership in 2019 means being willing to stand up and vocally oppose the fossil fuel industry, and to talk about how to stop the industry’s expansion and carefully phase-out fossil fuel production in a way that protects impacted communities and workers. As Republicans and their fossil fuel industry sponsors continue to obscure and deny the reality of the climate crisis, it’s more important than ever for Democrats to put forth and proudly tout bold visions for how to stop the buildout of deadly fossil fuel infrastructure and implement an aggressive transition to a new economy that protects the dignity of workers and communities.
With that in mind, this week has seen some critically important public statements from candidates about their plans to constrain Big Oil, Gas, and Coal’s expansion and implemented a controlled wind-down of fossil fuel production that addresses environmental injustices and strengthens labor protections. Here’s a quick run-down of what candidates have been saying this week to advance real climate leadership via the NYT survey or other public statements:
Implementing a “Climate Test” on Energy Projects
Gov. Jay Inslee (from NYT survey): “One of the first important steps that must be taken […] is to reinstate crucial Obama-era federal climate policies, and strengthen them. This includes […] how federal agencies consider the climate impacts of major energy projects in their environmental review processes.”
Andrew Yang (from NYT survey): “I will direct the EPA to include CO2 in its review of standards, and specifically with respect to oil refineries.”
Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (from NYT survey): “I oppose subsidies for fossil fuel companies and have spoken out repeatedly against the influence that Big Oil and carbon-based industries wield in Washington.”
Gov. Jay Inslee (from NYT survey): “In our state efforts […] we have found the vast amount of carbon savings came from investments, and there are many ways to fund those, including rolling back the Trump tax cuts and ending subsidies for fossil-fuel companies.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (from NYT survey): “I would take on the fossil-fuel industry by ending the $26 billion per year the American people are currently paying in subsidies and invest that in our green [energy] economy.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (from NYT survey): “Details on how to achieve 100 percent renewable energy goals by 2035 include […] ending fossil-fuel subsidies.”
Marianne Williamson (from NYT survey): “I would end all subsidies for dirty energy and transfer them to subsidies for clean energy.”
Banning Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (from NYT survey): “Details on how to achieve 100 percent renewable energy goals by 2035 include […] a moratorium on new major fossil-fuel projects and banning fracking.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (from public lands plan released Monday): “On my first day as president, I will sign an executive order that says no more drilling — a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (from climate platform released Monday): “Ban fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground by banning fossil fuel leases on public lands.”
Banning Exports of Dirty Energy
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (from NYT survey): “Details on how to achieve 100 percent renewable energy goals by 2035 include […] a ban on crude oil and LNG exports.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (from climate platform released Monday): “End exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.”
None of these positions alone will be sufficient, but they’re all important contributions to what a Green New Deal or any other comprehensive climate policy framework should look like. We’ll be on the lookout in the coming weeks and months for candidates to keep fleshing out their climate plans with specific policies and plans to meet the transformational scale of action needed to pass a Green New Deal that phases out the fossil fuel industry and phases in a new era of prosperity for all.
It’s no mere coincidence that every single contender listed above has taken the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge to reject contributions from fossil fuel industry PACs, lobbyists, and executives – refusing the industry’s political influence is a key step toward being willing to take bold stances like the ones below to address the climate crisis. We look forward to seeing other candidates rise to meet the new bar for climate leadership and continue to raise it by signing the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge and outlining bold policy visions like these.
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