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Ten 2020 Candidates Will Debate in CNN’s Climate Crisis Debate Next Week. Here’s Where They Stand

There may not be an official climate debate, but the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have found plenty of ways to share their views, plans, and proposed policies to tackle climate change.

On September 4, CNN will host a town hall in what will be the first of several climate-related events; MSNBC also plans to co-host a multi-day climate forum with Georgetown later in the month. 

Only those candidates who have qualified for the official third Democratic debate have been invited to participate in CNN’s town hall. Ten candidates have qualified so far, but one, Sen. Kamala Harris initially planned to give the CNN event a miss. After earlier announcing that a scheduling conflict would prevent her from participating, Harris’ team said Tuesday that she had changed her schedule to accommodate the event. 

Ahead of the CNN town hall, here’s a look at what the candidates who have qualified are doing—and saying—about climate change. 

Every candidate who has qualified for the third debate has explicitly expressed support for the Green New Deal, with the exception of Biden.

Kamala Harris

She may currently have her eyes set on the White House, but Harris also introduced a climate justice bill with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the end of July. The Climate Equity Act seeks to ensure that low-income communities are not left behind when environmental regulations or legislation are passed. The bill recognizes that these communities are already disproportionately affected by climate change and pollution and proposes the creation of an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability to make the government more accountable to them. 

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders released his first comprehensive climate plan last Thursday, his own $16.3 trillion version of the Green New Deal. The bill seeks to combat climate change while creating millions of jobs, and includes a plan for complete decarbonization by 2050.

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden released his Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice in June. It proposes $1.7 trillion in spending to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Biden came under fire for the plan during the second debate, particularly from Inslee. He hasn’t offered any additional policies.

Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has offered five parts to her own climate plan in a series of Medium posts published since April. The first focuses on public lands, the second on how the military can help combat climate change, the third on green manufacturing, the fourth on a transition to clean energy, and the last looks at trade. Warren also co-sponsored The Department of Defense (DoD) Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act and the Climate Risk Disclosure Act.  

Cory Booker

In April, Sen. Cory Booker released an “environmental justice plan,” which focuses on the disproportionate impacts of climate change and pollution on the poor and communities of color. Earlier this month, he released the Climate Stewardship Act, which is inspired by FDR’s New Deal. The bill calls for “voluntary farm and ranch conservation practices, massive reforestation, and wetlands restoration,” including planting 4 billion trees across the country by 2030. Booker also co-sponsored Warren’s Climate Risk Disclosure Act.

Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of a Green New Deal and has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, as well as promised to rejoin the Paris Accord, but has not offered a climate plans of her own. She does, however, include a number of climate-related plans in her First 100 Days plan

Julián Castro

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro has not released a climate-specific plan. However, climate change plays a role in his housing plan, which includes a $200 billion green infrastructure fund and plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Castro also released a plan last week to protect animals and wildlife, particularly those that are endangered, as well as public lands and oceans.

Beto O'Rourke

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s plan calls for spending $5 trillion over 10 years to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete Buttigieg has called for the creation of a Climate Corps, similar to AmeriCorps. His plan to ‘unleash the potential of rural America’ includes proposals to increase agricultural R&D and the creation of Resilience Hubs, for example, to mitigate the effects of climate change on rural communities. 

Andrew Yang

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang released his own climate plan on Monday, which combines more traditional goals, like transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewables, with a more distinctly Yang-ian touch, such as the creation of space mirrors and a call to "move our people to higher ground." Yang also suggests embracing nuclear energy, unlike the proposals from other Democratic candidates. His plan proposes $4.87 trillion in climate-related spending over 20 years.

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