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CHART: Compare the Democratic Candidates' Key Climate Proposals

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Nearly half of likely California Democratic voters in a December 2019 poll named climate change as their highest priority for the next president. Here are how the candidates stack up against each other on some key proposals. Below that are some of the actions they’ve already taken related to climate change.

Democratic Candidates’ Climate Plans

Democratic Candidates’ Key Climate Achievements

The candidates for the Democratic nomination all agree that the country needs to reverse course from the Trump administration’s current policy of embracing fossil fuels. Elizabeth Warren, for example, has called Trump the “climate denier-in-chief.”  Bernie Sanders said Trump is “dangerously wrong” on the issue. Joe Biden said Trump has “abdicated leadership.”

All of the candidates agree on several key climate policies: They all believe the U.S. should rejoin the Paris climate agreement; they all want to stop issuing fossil fuel leases on public lands; and all of them except Elizabeth Warren want to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Warren is even more ambitious, with a net-zero target of 2030.

Federal Spending

But the candidates don’t agree on how quickly the country should stop fracking and burning natural gas or how much the federal government should spend to fight climate change.

Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have all proposed at least a trillion dollars in spending.

Mike Bloomberg’s climate plan states that he “will quadruple the federal R&D investment in clean energy and a clean grid to at least $25 billion a year,” but, as NPR points out, the plan is not clear about overall spending.


The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is the congressional resolution that lays out a grand plan for tackling climate change. The legislation is co-sponsored by senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar; all of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination have endorsed at least portions of it.

Klobuchar’s detailed description of her climate plan does not mention the Green New Deal, however, and she has called the plan aspirational rather than prescriptive, telling CNN that it doesn’t make sense to “get rid of all these industries or do this in a few years,” while it does make sense to “start doing concrete things, and put some aspirations out there on climate change.”

Bloomberg also did not embrace the Green New Deal in his climate plan, but he has said that he supports the climate portions of it. He stresses that climate activists should focus on what’s doable.

A Price on Carbon

Economists and some climate scientists have argued that the best way to fight climate change is to put a price on emitting planet- warming greenhouse gases and raise that price incrementally over a period of years.

Warren did not mention a price on carbon in her detailed climate proposals, but her campaign told NPR that she is “open to a carbon tax.”

Sanders’ plan says he will “massively” raise taxes on corporate polluters’ and “raise penalties on pollution from fossil fuel energy generation.”  His campaign told NPR that “a price on carbon must be part of a larger strategy.”

Mike Bloomberg has endorsed the idea of a federal carbon tax in the past, but his climate plan does not include a price on carbon, at least not yet. “Putting a price on carbon should be one among many actions the federal government takes to combat climate change,” his campaign told NPR.

Fracking Ban

Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Biden and Bloomberg have called for increased fracking oversight, but their climate plans do not mention a fracking ban.

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