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Where Do The 2020 Dems Stand On Climate And Carbon Pricing?

Steve Zwick

Over a dozen people have joined the race to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, and all of them – in contrast with their sole Republican counterpart – acknowledge climate science and aim to deal with climate change. In this continuously updating scorecard, we’ll be expanding and clarifying positions as the candidates themselves do.

5 March 2019 (Updated) | 25 January 2019 (Posted) | US President Donald Trump can’t pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement unless he wins the 2020 election, while all of the people running for the Democratic nomination acknowledge the reality of climate science and most have explicitly said they’d keep the United States in the Paris Agreement.

Beyond that, however, where do they stand – on carbon pricing, on fuel subsidies, and on renewable energy policies?

Among reporters, a common litmus test for climate credibility seems to be whether the candidates support freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) proposal to form a Select Committee For A Green New Deal, but is that the best criteria? The Committee is designed to create legislation that will shift the US economy to 100 percent renewables within ten years of passage, and it has the support of dozens of other legislators, but fellow freshman Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), a bona fide green entrepreneur, thinks such high ambition could prove counterproductive, while Senator Ed Markey, who co-sponsored the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade Bill back in 2009, is reportedly working on his own proposal.

At the same time, the number of viable candidates throwing their hats into the presidential race is growing, and while all of them advocate action on climate change, few have explicitly said how they will deliver – let alone whether they advocate a price on carbon.

In this scorecard, we will be tracking the candidates’ positions on climate and adjusting them as the positions come into focus. We are also reaching out to the candidates directly with specific questions, and we invite feedback from you on the issues we’ve chosen to highlight.

We want to hear from you, so feel free to contact me at szwick@forest-trends.org or utilize our comments section below. We consider this a living document that will expand, contract, and hopefully sharpen over time. We may change the title as themes emerge, and we may expand beyond the Democratic Party, too. For this list, we focused on declared candidates who have already held public office, and added in Andrew Yang because he seems to drawing attention.

Jay Inslee

General: Washington State Gov Jay Inslee is the only candidates to build his entire campaign on meeting the climate challenge, and he’s unequivocal. “A lot of these candidates want to check the box,” he told Rolling Stone. “Every agency has to be on board, and it has to take priority over everything else we do. You have to build a mandate for this during the campaign, and you have to express a willingness to spend your political capital to get this done. I think too many other candidates are going to say, ‘I’m for the Green New Deal, and now I’m done.’ That just doesn’t cut it.”

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: As governor, he backed Initiative 1631, which would have implemented a $15 per ton price on carbon, with price increasing $2 per year.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

John Hickenlooper

General: While serving as governor of Colorado, Hickenlooper brought the state into the US Climate Alliance, which is a cluster of states that have committed to honoring the US climate action plan submitted under the Paris Climate Agreement. A geologist by training, he also supported Colorado’s massive shift into fracking.

Green New Deal: Tentatively Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: In the past, he’s been skeptical of a carbon tax, and his current position is not clear.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

John Delaney

General: While serving as a Representative in Maryland, he co-sponsored last year’s Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 7173), along with three other Democrats and three Republicans. The returning sponsors say they will re-introduce it in the new session. The bill, in its current form, calls for a $15-per-ton carbon tax, increasing $10 every year, until it reaches $100-per-ton, with much of the proceeds going to low- and middle-income families hit hardest by rising energy costs. The goal is a 40-percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions within 12 years of passage, and a 90-percent reduction by 2050.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Advocates the elimination of fuel subsidies and a carbon tax, but has also expressed support for cap-and-trade.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Elizabeth Warren

General: Warren introduced the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, which would require public companies to quantify and disclose their climate risk exposure. Her proposal builds on the work of Michael Bloomberg’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, which is a global task force designed to promote climate risk disclosure.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Advocates elimination of fuel subsidies, views on carbon pricing unknown.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Cory Booker

General: Booker is a co-sponsor of Warren’s Climate Risk Disclosure Act and has advocated a price on carbon since 2016.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Advocates elimination of fuel subsidies and the imposition of a price on carbon, but has no preference for cap-and-trade vs tax.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Kirsten Gillibrand

General: Gillibrand has supported cap-and-trade since at least 2009 and has proposed but not yet introduced the  Keep it in the Ground Act, which would ban any new leases for gas or oil drilling on federal lands.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: She advocates the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and vociferously endorses a price on carbon, but is agnostic on whether it should be a tax or cap-and-trade.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Richard Ojeda

General: Ojeda is an Army vet and former West Virginia State Senator who acknowledges the reality of climate science but also says he wants to protect the coal sector.

Green New Deal: Unknown

Paris Agreement: Unknown

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Unknown

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Kamala Harris

General: Harris investigated Exxon Mobil for hiding climate risks from shareholders, and on January 28 she declared climate change “an existential threat to us.”

she’s earned a 100 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters,

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Advocates the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, but her views on carbon pricing are unknown.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Tulsi Gabbard

General: Gabbard introduced the OFF Fuels for a Better Future Act, which would immediately eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels and use the savings to subsidize a transition to 100 percent renewables by 2035.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Has criticized fossil fuel subsidies and spoken in favor of a price on carbon.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Julian Castro

General: As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he oversaw programs designed to improve climate resilience, and as Mayor of San Antonio he encouraged companies to voluntarily embrace sustainable practices.

Green New Deal: Unknown

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Unknown

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Amy Klobuchar

General:A former corporate lawyer, Klobuchar has published a detailed environmental position sheet that recognizes the reality of climate science but is surprisingly short on details.

Green New Deal: No public comments yet

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Unknown

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Pete Buttigieg

General: Buttigieg has vociferously criticized the Trump administration’s recalcitrance on climate issues, but he just joined the race, and his policies are not yet clear.

Green New Deal: No public comments yet

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Unknown

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Bernie Sanders

General: Sanders has long been an outspoken critic of

Green New Deal: Advocates

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Advocates a carbon tax.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Marianne Williamson

General: Famous for being Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual adviser, Williamson is also a vocal proponent of climate action.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: Advocates investment, but financing mechanism unclear.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Andrew Yang

General: A tech entrepreneur, Yang puts a strong emphasis and developing new technologies,  and advocates the creation of a Global Geoengineering Institute and invite international participation

Green New Deal: No public comments yet

Paris Agreement: Supports

Carbon Pricing and Fuel Subsidies: He advocates the elimination of fossil-fuel subsidies and a “tax on emissions that will fund health care initiatives and research for respiratory diseases that are a direct result of these emissions.” The wording indicates a tax on both greenhouse-gas emissions and other pollutants, given the emphasis on respiratory illnesses.

Donors and Campaign Finance: We’re adding this in response to reader feedback. Updates to follow.

Steve Zwick is Managing Editor of Ecosystem Marketplace and produces the Bionic Planet podcast. Before joining Ecosystem Marketplace, we covered European business for Time Magazine and Fortune Magazine and produced the award-winning program Money Talks on Deutsche Welle Radio in Bonn, Germany.

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