2020 Candidates Talk Climate Emergency and Green New Deal

The Green New Deal has moved from the fringes to the center of the conversation for Democratic presidential hopefuls. The majority of this crowded field supports the Green New Deal (GND)—a resolution that sets forth proposed goals and programs to strengthen the economy, invest in green infrastructure, and drive emissions to zero in ten years, sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).

These candidates also speak about climate as an urgent, immediate threat. Some are even describing the climate situation as an “Emergency”—key framing for the challenges ahead. (Read more about Climate Truth and the “Climate Emergency” frame here.)

The statements from candidates—collected below—demonstrate an opening in the political discourse that is unique in the history of environmental and social justice movements: for the first time in decades, powerful people are listening.

These statements show how impactful the work of the Climate Emergency Movement has been thus far and also calls us forth to redouble our efforts, step into the moment, and hold power accountable.

Kamala Harris

Upon launching her presidential bid, California Senator Kamala Harris came out in favor of the Green New Deal and has repeatedly made strong statements in support of the concept:

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“The Green New Deal is a bold plan to shift our country to 100% clean and renewable energy. We do not fight this fight for our generation alone but for generations to come,” Harris said in a tweet in January, followed by a tweet in February redeclaring her support, writing “I support the Green New Deal because we need a sense of urgency and a bold agenda to address the climate crisis.”

“First of all, climate change is presenting an existential threat to our nation … and the world,” Harris said in an interview with MSNBC. “We have an administration that is focused on spewing science fiction instead of science fact,” she said, adding “We as human beings actually have within our power the ability to change our behaviors—not in drastic ways, by the way—to reduce the effects of climate change, and this administration has failed us... This administration has failed to think about the future.”

Bernie Sanders

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"I'm running for president because we need to make policy decisions based on science, not politics," Sanders wrote in an email to supporters announcing his decision. "We need a president who understands that climate change is real, is an existential threat to our country and the entire planet, and that we can generate massive job creation by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy."

A climate policy plan to be released from Sen. Sanders in the near future is expected to contain significantly more details on how he would move America's economy to zero carbon emissions in an effort to ground the Green New Deal in additional substance, according to aides to the Senator.

Elizabeth Warren

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Elizabeth Warren backs the Green New Deal and is quoted saying “Climate change is real, it threatens all of us, and we have no time to wait to address it head on.”

When asked on CBS what would constitute a national emergency if she were to be president. "Oh, let’s do a list," Warren said. "Climate change, gun violence, student loan debt, right off the top. That’s what we ought to be working on. And we ought to be working on it together. Congress, the President, as a country, those are things we should be working on."

Jay Inslee

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is the only Democratic presidential candidate running focused almost exclusively on fighting climate change. He believes saving the climate should be the number one priority of the next president and will soon introduce his own policy instead of giving his support to the Green New Deal.

In a recent fundraising email, Insless called climate change “our REAL national emergency,” and appears to be adopting the framing of TCM’s Climate Emergency Declarations Campaign.

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On The Rachel Maddow Show, Inslee addressed President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency over the funding of the U.S. – Mexico border wall and how this action could set a precedent for action to address the Climate Emergency:

“If the rules change, if the Supreme Court changes the rules, all of the presidents will have to follow whatever those rules are then. We know that climate is an emergency. […] We have a true national emergency; it is climate change. It demands an immediate response. But the best way to do it is to have Congress and the President to pass legislation to get this job done. And I will be proposing very specific proposals on how to do that.”

Calling the GND an “aspirational document,” he is quoted saying "I will be rolling out my own proposed policy. It will be comprehensive. It will be robust. It will have a sector-by-sector approach which will be targeted to reduction of carbon pollution and job creation."

Cory Booker

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At a campaign stop in Iowa, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker addressed the issue: “Doing nothing is not an option right now because our planet really is in peril. So the question is, what’s the United States of America going to do? Is it going to lead the planet in terms of dealing with this crisis? Or is it going to pull back from global leadership when we are the biggest economy on the planet Earth?”

In a tweet in February Booker added “The hard truth is climate change has imperiled our planet—it’s going to take bold action now to save it including dramatic investment in green energy that will create the jobs of the future. We can do this.”

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Kirsten Gillibrand

In response to a story about the collapsing Thwaites glacier in Antarctica, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted:

“There's nothing left to debate. Climate change is an immediate and catastrophic threat to our future. It's time for bold action, now. We need a #GreenNewDeal.”

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Julian Castro

"As President, my first executive order will recommit the United States to the Paris climate accord," Castro said on Jan. 12. "We’re gonna say no to subsidizing big oil and say yes to passing a Green New Deal.”







Going forward

We are pleased to see Democratic presidential candidates taking this issue seriously, and urge all readers to let your voices be heard demanding policy that offers bold, immediate solutions to the Climate Emergency.

The Climate Mobilization will continue to demand a rapid elimination of carbon emissions and drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere by 2030 with justice at the center. Our mission is to initiate a WWII-scale mobilization to protect humanity and the natural world from climate catastrophe.

Marina Mails