If you fall into the percentage of Americans for whom climate change is a key issue, this article is for you. Here is a guide on how each presidential candidate stands on climate change. Note that while each of the Democratic candidates has a climate plan, both Republican candidates lack one.
Note also that every Democratic candidate signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.” Neither of the Republican candidates signed the pledge.
Bennet’s climate plan calls for achieving 100 percent net-zero emissions and cutting energy waste in half by 2050. The plan has several 2030 targets, including conserving the country’s lands and oceans by 2030 and creating a climate challenge to encourage states to develop climate plans. The plan also calls for creating a climate bank to deploy $1 trillion in federal funds to catalyze $10 trillion in private sector innovation.
Is Bennet’s climate plan an “enduring solution,” as he puts it, or just mere talk from someone aspiring to the highest office in the land? Greenpeace gives him a D+ on climate change for several reasons. He opposes a green new deal and says he believes “natural gas has a role to play” in dealing with climate change. “Bennet is a long way behind when it comes to leading on climate action,” the environmental organization proclaimed.
Joe Biden has a history of taking action on climate change. In 1986, he introduced a bill that would have created a presidential task force on climate change. His climate plan builds on that history by setting a target to achieve a 100 percent clean energy economy and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. He would recommit the U.S. to the Paris Agreement on climate change and lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets.
Greenpeace only gives Biden a B+ on climate change because he has not committed to fully banning new fossil fuel drilling on public lands and waters and halting federal permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure.
In his Plan for 100 Percent Clean Power, Bloomberg commits to full decarbonization in the U.S. by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent across the entire U.S. economy in 10 years. To achieve his goals, he plans to reduce GHG emissions in the electricity, building, and transportation sectors.
Bloomberg also has an International Climate Priorities which includes making climate change a foreign policy priority, significantly increasing the U.S. emissions-reduction commitment, restoring U.S. contributions to the Green Climate Fund, and holding other countries accountable for reducing emissions.
Greenpeace only gave Bloomberg a C+ on climate change due to his lack of a detailed plan to phase out fossil fuel production.
Buttigieg’s climate plan has both 2025 and 2035 goals. The 2025 goals consist of doubling clean electricity, quadrupling federal clean energy research, putting a price on carbon, and developing funding to $25 billion per year. He calls for building a clean electricity system with zero emissions and achieving net-zero emissions from industry by 2035.
Buttigieg received B grade from Greenpeace on climate change. The environmental organization points out that his plan includes carbon capture technology that it describes as “risky” and could extend the fossil fuel era. While he signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, he has not committed to holding fossil fuel companies responsible for climate change.
Gabbard has not yet released a climate plan. She introduced the OFF Fossil Fuels Act into Congress which would transform the U.S. to 100 percent clean power and transportation by 2035, stop new fossil fuel projects, and repeal some oil and gas subsidies.
While Greenpeace gives her a B grade on climate change, it should likely be lower due to her lack of a climate plan.
Amy Klobuchar’s climate plan includes restoration. Part of that restoration would be getting the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Agreement on her first day of office. Another part is bringing back the fuel-economy standards. Beyond restoration, she commits to introducing what she calls “sweeping legislation that will put our country on the path to 100 percent net zero emissions by 2050.”
Klobuchar only receives a C+ grade from Greenpeace and even that may be too generous. Her goal to achieve 100 percent net zero emissions by 2050 lacks details.
Bernie Sanders has a detailed Green New Deal which calls by investing $16.3 trillion and declaring climate change a national emergency. Part of that investment will go towards a $40 billion Climate Justice Resiliency Fund to recover from and prepare for climate impacts. Another part of the investment would include providing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund. Sanders claims that the plan will pay for itself over 15 years.
Sanders Green New Deal calls for 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation and reducing domestic emissions by 71 percent by 2030. It also calls for 100 percent decarbonization by 2050.
Greenpeace grades Sanders an A+ for committing to take on the fossil fuel industry and enacting a Green New Deal.
Tom Steyer’s Justice-Centered Climate Plan is ambitious and calls for a 100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero global warming pollution by 2045. Part of achieving that is by eliminating fossil fuel pollution from all sectors, transitioning to clean electricity, setting strong standards for new buildings, and retrofitting existing buildings to improve energy efficiency.
Steyer’s plan calls for the elimination of toxic air pollution from diesel engines, power plants, and other major sources by 2030. The plan also calls for $250 billion of new National Healthy Communities Climate Bonds to be issued over 10 years and investing $2 trillion in federal funding over 10 years in infrastructure.
Steyer received an A grade from Greenpeace for ending giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, making communities on the frontlines of environmental justice a priority, and committing to 100 percent clean energy by 2045.
Elizabeth Warren’s climate plan covers a wide swath of issues affected by climate change, including public lands, tribal lands, environmental justice, and sustainable agriculture. She commits to a series of goals, which include:
- 100 percent clean electricity by 2035.
- 100 percent zero emissions for all new light-duty passenger vehicles, medium-duty trucks, and all buses by 2030.
- Eliminating all fossil fuel use in new and renovated federal buildings by 2025.
- Attaining 100 percent zero-carbon pollution for all new commercial and residential buildings by 2028.
Warren received an A grade on climate change from Greenpeace, in part for being the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for a stop to new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters.
Editor's note: as we go to press, Andrew Young has just announced he is suspending his campaign.
Andrew Yang’s climate plan sets a goal of achieving a net-zero emissions goal by 2049. Other targets include:
- Establishing net-zero standards for new buildings by 2025.
- Establishing a zero-emission standard for all new cars by 2030.
- Achieving a 100 percent emissions-free electric grid by 2035.
- Achieving net-zero emissions for all transportation sectors.
Greenpeace gives Yang a C+ grade for relying on nuclear power, carbon capture and geo-engineering schemes.
President Donald Trump not only denies the existence of climate change but he actively promotes the use of fossil fuels. His presidency can easily be called the most damaging to the environment. He has called for several national monuments in Utah to be reduced and increased fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Greenpeace gives him an F grade for good reason.
Bill Weld has expressed the “pressing need” to act on climate change and supports keeping the U.S. in the Paris Climate Agreement. Unlike Trump, he has a climate plan. However, he has said the Green New Deal is “probably more than I could sit still for” and lacks plans to hold fossil fuel companies accountable. Greenpeace also gives him an F grade on climate change.