Climate Change Town Halls: Here's Where the 2020 Candidates Stand

Voters pushing for a greater focus on climate change in Democratic debates will be rewarded Wednesday night as CNN hosts seven hours of town halls devoted to the issue, featuring the 10 Democratic candidates who qualified for next week's debate. Each candidate will receive 40 minutes with a host for a one-on-one discussion focused solely on the environment.

As a result, a number of candidates have come out with new plans today to address the issue.

Here's a handy summary of what we know so far about each candidate's plan to tackle climate change:

Joe Biden

The former vice president suggested investing $1.7 trillion into clean energy and preventing climate change back in June (unlike other candidates, he did not adapt his plan from Washington Governor Jay Inslee who had an extensive climate change platform but recently dropped out of the race).

Biden's plan spends less than most of the other major candidates, yet new polling found the majority of climate change-concerned Democratic voters, about 30 percent, believe he is the right candidate for the job.

Here's what he'd do:

  • Set a goal of zero-emission energy production in the U.S. by 2050
  • Reverse the GOP tax cuts and use the money to invest in green jobs and infrastructure
  • Institute a tax or fee for serial polluters to fund investments.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren's plan, released Wednesday, would pour about $3 trillion over the next decade into new energy programs, jobs and research, that's around double the amount Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete have suggested. Like Biden, Warren says she would pay for the plan in part by reversing Republican tax cuts.

Warren consulted withInslee while creating her climate policy agenda. Before dropping out of the race, Inslee released more than 200 pages of plans to combat climate change while growing the U.S. economy.

"While his presidential campaign may be over, his ideas should remain at the center of the agenda," she wrote in the outline of her plan.

Here's what Warren has adopted:

  • Retire all coal-fired electricity within the next decade
  • Fund pensions and healthcare for all retired coal miners
  • Make cars, medium-duty trucks and buses have zero-emissions by 2030
  • Make new buildings (residential and commercial) carbon pollution free by 2028
  • Ensure all energy production will be zero-emission by 2035.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at Howard University May 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. Sanders and nine other Democratic candidates will speak on CNN's climate change town halls on September 4. Alex Wong/Getty

Sanders has proposed a $16.3 trillion Green New Deal plan that reimagines the totality of the U.S. economy. His plan requires an investment multiple times larger than those of other top 2020 candidates and the Vermont Senator has made clear that, unlike other candidates, he would not rely on public/private partnerships to fund his plan.

Ideally, he would:

  • Get to zero carbon emissions by 2050
  • Ban all fracking
  • Create 20 million new green jobs
  • Fine and hold energy executives legally liable for pollution
  • Create a 100 percent renewable energy system by 2030.

Kamala Harris

Harris released a $10 trillion plan on Wednesday, also borrowing largely from Inslee in her work.

An arms race I can get behind.

In her new plan, @KamalaHarris adopts @JayInslee’s climate pollution fee.

— Jamal Raad🌲 (@jamalraad) September 4, 2019

She plans to:

  • End fossil fuel emissions in energy generation by 2030
  • Create a carbon-neutral economy by 2045
  • Create a $250 billion program to replace damaged water infrastructure over the next 5 years
  • Invest $10 trillion (a combination of public and private spending) into green infrastructure, technology and jobs over the next 10 years.

Pete Buttigieg

On Wednesday, Buttigieg announced a plan to invest $1.1 trillion towards the issue.

His plan would:

  • Aim for net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Require zero emissions from all new passenger cars by 2035
  • Build a clean electricity system with zero emissions by 2035
  • Invest $200 billion over 10 years into clean energy research and development
  • Create a $200 billion assistance fund to train and help transition out of work Americans
  • Give $5 billion in annual grants to help cities create new infrastructure to prevent destruction due to climate change.

Andrew Yang

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur is proposing a $4.5 trillion plan, spent over two decades, to combat climate change. Other candidates have levied their spending out over 10 years, so in order to compare the plans you'd want to slash Yang's in half, bringing it to about $2.25 trillion.

Of that money:

  • $1.5 trillion would go to loans for households looking to invest in green energy
  • $100 billion would go to modernizing power grids
  • $150 billion would go to subsidizing sustainable methods of agriculture
  • $125 billion would go to making ground transportation zero-emission.

He would also:

  • End all fossil fuel subsidies
  • Institute a carbon tax on companies, eventually rising to $100 per ton.

Beto O'Rourke

The former El Paso Congressman released his $5 trillion plan in May. The ambitious agenda focuses mainly on infrastructure and research and development.

Here's what else he'd do:

  • Aim for net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Invest $1.5 trillion in infrastructure, innovation and green jobs
  • Require a net-zero emissions carbon budget for federal lands by 2030.

Amy Klobuchar

The Minnesota Senator released a 13-page climate plan early this week. She plans to invest $1 trillion into new, energy-efficient infrastructure.

Here's what Klobuchar plans to do:

  • Strive for 100 percent net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Re-instate Obama-era initiatives like rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the Clean Power Plan.

Julián Castro

The former housing and urban development secretary under Obama would work to fight structural environmental racism, where families of color or low-income Americans are in effect forced to live in dangerous environmental conditions like near chemical plants or in high-risk flood zones.

He would also:

  • Set a goal for the U.S. to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045
  • Dedicate $10 trillion in federal, state, local and private funds to create 10 million jobs as part of a shift to clean energy
  • Strive for a 50 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Cory Booker

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker's plan, unveiled this week, would dedicate $3 trillion to fighting climate change with an emphasis on ending environmental racism.

He wants to:

  • Develop an entirely carbon-neutral economy by 2045
  • Create a carbon-free energy system by 2030
  • Dedicate $400 billion to "moonshot hubs" which would focus on big-picture research and development projects.