Which 2020 Democrat has the strongest climate platform?

At the first presidential debate in Miami, candidates are competing for voter attention on plans to stop global warming.

    The first 2020 US presidential debate between Democratic candidates is being held over the course of two nights in Miami, Florida [Carlo Allegri/Reuters]
    The first 2020 US presidential debate between Democratic candidates is being held over the course of two nights in Miami, Florida [Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

    The issues up for discussion at the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Miami range from the economy and foreign policy to healthcare and the opioid crisis.

    But for the first time, the candidates for the United States presidency are also competing with each other to present the strongest climate platform.

    Eighteen of the current field of 24 Democrats running for president have already signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, vowing they will not accept campaign contributions from the oil, gas and coal industries. 

    Here's a look at some of the most notable ideas proposed by the contenders, as many activist groups push for nothing less than a climate emergency declaration and mass national mobilisation.

    The line up of U.S. Democratic presidential candidates who will participate in the party's first of two nights of debate in Miami
    The lineup of US Democratic presidential candidates participating in the party's first of two nights of debate in Miami on June 26, 2019, includes Washington Governor Jay Inslee, US Senator Elizabeth Warren and former US Representative Beto O'Rourke [Files/Reuters]

    Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State

    The only candidate who has made climate change the centrepiece of his agenda, Inslee described global warming in a fundraising email as "our REAL national emergency".

    He has called the Green New Deal - a US Congressional resolution to roll back fossil-fuel pollution and create green-energy jobs - an "aspirational document". The candidate acknowledges that lawmakers and the president need to pass legislation "to get this job done".

    Inslee's giant decarbonisation plan contains five incredibly detailed parts: 100 percent Clean Energy for America; an Evergreen Economy plan to spend $9 trillion in 10 years; Global Climate Mobilization restoring US leadership around the world; Freedom From Fossil Fuels to keep resources in the ground and hold polluters accountable; and a fifth part on climate justice yet to be released.

    Inslee wants to create a carbon tax, end fossil-fuel subsidies, ban fracking nationally, and reinstate environmental rules ditched by incumbent President Donald Trump.

    His set of proposals could potentially lay the foundations for a party platform. Each and every part of Inslee's plan contains more information than the rest of the other candidates' climate plans combined.

    "Today the United States and the world stand at a crossroads unlike any that we have encountered before," Inslee states on his website. "Either inaction will set in motion a worsening global climate crisis that will lead to devastation, or our nation and the world will respond to build a modern, green and more just global economic future."

    Elizabeth Warren, US Senator

    The Massachusetts senator cosponsored the Green New Deal but has also suggested that gun violence and student loan debt are national emergencies no less important than climate change.

    "Climate change is real, it threatens all of us, and we have no time to wait to address it head on," Warren tweeted in February.

    During a late-night interview on CBS network television earlier this year, she said, "We ought to be working on it together. Congress, the President, as a country."

    Her agenda includes discrete plans to reduce emissions for US military operations, limit fossil-fuel extraction on public lands, and revitalise a greener manufacturing sector. Warren says money in politics allows oil and gas companies to corrupt legislators, so ending lobbying is integral.

    Warren's $1.5 trillion plan for Green Industrial Mobilization centers on government procurement of low-carbon technology. Her Green Apollo Program would involve $400bn in energy research, while the Green Marshall Plan would facilitate the purchase of US green technology innovations by foreign countries.

    Beto O'Rourke, former member US House of Representatives

    The former Congressman from El Paso, Texas, was the first 2020 Democrat to release a climate plan.

    "Climate change is the greatest threat we face - one which will test our country, our democracy, and every single one of us," says O'Rourke's campaign website, pointing to the "growing emergency that has already started to sap our economic prosperity and public health".

    O'Rourke's vision involves re-joining the Paris agreement, setting legally binding greenhouse-gas emissions targets, and imposing strict new efficiency standards.

    His proposal would also shore up vulnerable parts of the US against catastrophic climate events, and raise $5 trillion for clean energy investment.

    The line up of U.S. Democratic presidential candidates who will participate in the party's second of two nights of debate in Miami
    The Democratic presidential candidates in the party's second of two nights of debate on June 27, 2019, include former US Vice President Joe Biden and US Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris [Files/Reuters]

    Joe Biden, former US Vice President

    With the distinction of having introduced the first climate change bill to the Senate in 1987, Biden has touted a "middle ground" approach - which has invited harsh criticism from environmentalists.

    Biden - who has supported the Green New Deal, backed the idea of a climate debate, and pledged to reject fossil-fuel donations - promises $1.7 trillion in climate spending over the next 10 years.

    His plan, which revolves around a 2050 deadline to build a net-zero emissions economy, also requires big modifications to the US tax code, pressure on other nations to cut back carbon pollution, and government help for Americans most affected by climate change.

    Bernie Sanders, US Senator

    "We need a president who understands that climate change is real, and is an existential threat to our country and the entire planet," said Sanders in an email to supporters announcing his decision to run for president in 2020.

    "We can generate massive job creation by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy," wrote the Vermont senator and Green New Deal cosponsor - whose climate agenda is not as comprehensive as some of the other candidates' plans.

    On the Sanders campaign website, his climate platform calls for "building out high-speed passenger rail, electric vehicles, and public transit". It also pledges to "end exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil".

    Kamala Harris, US Senator

    When Harris launched her presidential bid, she expressed her strong support for climate legislation aiming to generate jobs, invest in green infrastructure, and cut carbon emissions.

    "We need a sense of urgency and a bold agenda to address the climate crisis," the US senator from California tweeted.

    Although Harris also cosponsored the Green New Deal, since announcing her presidential bid she has not released many specifics about her own climate ideas.

    Other candidates' proposals

    Unlike some of his opponents in the presidential race, US Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has advocated for nuclear power as an important zero-emissions source of electricity. He also cosponsored, with Warren, the Climate Risk Disclosure Act to force companies to be more transparent with investors about climate risks. 

    In addition to Booker and those mentioned above, two other Democratic US Senators running for president also cosponsored the Green New Deal: Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

    US Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado has proposed a global climate summit during his first 100 days in office. He has also suggested a new climate bank to finance resilience projects. 

    John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor, has opposed the Green New Deal as impractical and expensive. In addition, he has embraced natural gas production.

    Hickenlooper emphasises climate financing for developing countries and seeks to make both international trade and foreign aid conditional on emissions reductions. He also wants to launch a Climate Corps Program for young people.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News