Green New Deal: Your Presidential Candidate’s Stance

Our forests are burning. Our beaches are eroding. Animals and plants are going extinct. This is already having a devastating impact on our families and economy, yet we have been warned by scientists that these events will only amplify if we continue on the same path. Scientists have warned us that we have less than 10 years to make sweeping change, but are our representatives prepared? Do they understand the crisis we face?

There are two important policies that elected officials could pass to help address this crisis: A Green New Deal (GND) and the Off Fossil Fuels (OFF) Act are the most comprehensive and aggressive plans that take on the industries responsible for the climate and economic crisis. These policies describe how the United States can lead the world in mitigating the effects of pollution, while also improving our personal safety and health, as well as our economy. 

Threatening to derail the GND and the OFF Act is the newly signed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which makes no mention of climate change and lacks substantial reform to the international tribunal system, which allows corporations to sue countries, states, and municipalities for enacting environmental legislation. 

In this fact sheet, we include former Democratic U.S. Presidential candidates. We’re continuing to include their positions since they may influence elections through their endorsements, interviews, and other means of reaching voters.

We have just one decade to radically shift our global economy and energy production to a green, sustainable, fossil fuel free system or we will experience a catastrophic amount of global warming that will threaten our way of life.
The Green New Deal (GND) has recently gained in popularity for its bold ambitions to prioritize the health of people and the U.S. economy over the profit of the fossil fuel industry. Most people don’t know, however, that there is complementing legislation known as the OFF Act. 
While there is mild to heated disagreement about the details for a Green New Deal (GND), all Democratic presidential candidates have stated their support. Sanders and Gabbard have the most comprehensive and aggressive plans, while Klobuchar  the least aggressive.
The recently signed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), makes no mention of climate change and lacks substantial reform to the international tribunal system and allows corporations to sue countries, states, and municipalities for enacting environmental legislation. Biden supports this. Only Sanders and Steyer oppose the deal.

We have just one decade to radically shift our global economy and energy production to a green, sustainable, fossil fuel free system or we will experience a catastrophic amount of global warming that will threaten our way of life.

Catastrophic consequences from climate change are predicted if we do not implement drastic changes in fossil fuel consumption, according to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment.

The solution: 100% renewable energy by 2035, as recommended by environmental group Food and Water Watch (FWW) in their analysis.

This must include:

  • wind and solar power built out on a scale that rivals recent U.S. drilling and fracking;
  • investments in expanded and better public mass transit;
  • committed investments on energy efficiency and conservation across residential and industrial sectors; and
  • the end to the era of extracting and burning fossil fuels.
  • They cite the 2014 IPCC report which states the dangers of global temperature increases of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • To prevent that 1.5 degree C rise in temperature, we must decrease our global carbon emissions by 17% per year from 2016 to 2035. 
  • This 1.5 degree threshold is critical to avoid the most severe effects of climate change, including but not limited to, mass migration, stronger environmental catastrophes, as well as a major loss in global economic output. 
  • Unfortunately, global emissions actually increased by 1.6% in 2017, making that goal even harder to achieve.

The Green New Deal (GND) has recently gained in popularity for its bold ambitions to prioritize the health of people and the U.S. economy over the profit of the fossil fuel industry. Most people don’t know, however, that there is complementing legislation known as the OFF Act. 

The ultimate goal of both the Green New Deal (GND) and the OFF Act (OFF) is to prioritize the health of people and the U.S. economy over the profit of the fossil fuel industry. 

  • GND’s goals are to create net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, millions of high-wage jobs, investment in infrastructure, clean air and water, climate and community resilience, healthy food, access to nature, a sustainable environment, and promoting economic justice and equity for vulnerable communities.
  • OFF states its main purpose as being to justly transition away from fossil fuel sources of energy to 100 percent clean energy by 2035, and for other purposes.”

Both GND and OFF describe how the United States can be a leader in the world in mitigating the effects of pollution, while also providing economic security for people regardless of their wealth. 

Both GND and OFF take into account the working classes and diverse communities. They insist that any clean-energy program work with all communities, that incentives be in place for businesses, consumers, and communities to assist in the transition by offering training for workers, that the government subsidize clean energy companies instead of fossil fuel companies, and that it provide benefits for consumers who choose clean-energy alternatives. 

OFF is a bill while GND is a resolution, making the passage of GND not legally enforceable. 

While OFF is similar to GND, some consider it smaller in scope because the OFF Act calls for the elimination of fossil fuel emissions by 2035 while GND’s deadline is 2030. Additionally, OFF does not include a jobs/healthcare guarantee or building replacement as stated in the GND.

GND bears many similarities to OFF, but it takes the following additional steps by:

  • setting an earlier date for 100% renewables (2030 vs OFF’s 2035);
  • halting the construction of new nuclear power plants and finding solutions to our current nuclear waste problem (OFF makes no mention of the nuclear industry);
  • proposing litigation in addition to ending fossil fuel subsidies and taxing the industry (the latter two appear in OFF, but litigation does not).

GND does not contain the following objectives of OFF:

  • Extensions of tax credits for the production of offshore and onshore wind energy, as well as solar energy.
  • Specific dates for 80% (2027) and 100% (2035) emissions-free electric vehicles (although the Sanders GND also calls for a complete transition to zero-emissions electric vehicles).
  • Electrified trains: 20% by 2027; 100% by 2035.

Read more: https://tytarmy.org/2019/03/22/green-new-deal-vs-off-act-informed/


While there is mild to heated disagreement about the details for a Green New Deal (GND), all Democratic presidential candidates have stated their support. Sanders and Gabbard have the most comprehensive and aggressive plans, while Klobuchar  the least aggressive.

Before examining candidates’ positions, it’s important to understand common terminology.

  • Carbon Neutrality: Human-produced carbon emissions are “net zero on the global scale.”
  • Clean Energy: Forms of energy that are cleaner than oil and coal. This term is often misleading because it may include polluting, non-renewable fuels like nuclear energy and natural gas. 1 | 2
  • Renewable Energy: “Energy that is generated from natural processes that are continuously replenished … [and] cannot be exhausted.” Examples include solar, wind, and geothermal energy. 
  • Zero-Carbon: Energy that does not release CO2. While all renewables are zero-carbon, not all zero-carbon energies are renewable. For example, nuclear power plants do not release CO2. However, the materials used to create nuclear energy (such as uranium, which likely formed in supernovae approximately 6.6 billion years ago) are not renewable because they can be exhausted and are not easily replenished. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 
  • Zero-Greenhouse Gas (GHG): Energy that eliminates emissions from CO2, methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and other GHGs.

What is the candidate’s target year for 100% renewable energy?

  • Dates range between 2030 and 2050 for candidates who have named a specific target year.
    • Sanders names a target year of 2030.
    • Gabbard’s OFF Act calls for a “zero-carbon economy using only renewable generation by 2035.” Her official press release on the OFF Act from Sept. 2017 specifies that this is a goal for 100% renewable energy.
    • Some candidates set separate dates for 100% renewables or carbon neutrality for certain economic sectors by 2035.
      • Pete Buttigieg calls for net zero emissions for 
        • Passenger vehicles and electricity generation by 2035
        • Mass transit, aircraft, and freight by 2040
        • Industrial sector by 2050
      • Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan sets a target date of 2035 for electricity only. 
    • Candidates who do not name a target year are former Vice President Biden, Klobuchar, and Steyer
      • Biden’s plan names a 2050 date for 100% “clean” (as opposed to renewable) energy. 
      • Steyer’s website does not use the word “renewable” in his climate plan. It sets a target date ranging from 2030 to 2045 depending on the industry sector. It uses the terms “zero-carbon” and “clean,” which are not the same things as renewable energy.

What is the target year for 100% decarbonization (Zero Carbon)?

  • Candidates who have a specific target year, citing 2050 at the latest are Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren.
    • Klobuchar does not offer a specific plan for reaching the 2050 goal.
  • Gabbard’s OFF Act aims for 2035.
  • Steyer’s website discusses targets for carbon neutrality and zero-carbon emissions, which range from 2030 to 2045, depending on industry sector.
    • The website also mentions a “100% clean standard” for vehicles between 2030 and 2035, but does not explain what kind of fuels meet this “clean standard.”
  • Yang aims for 2049.

Does the candidate support eliminating the burning of fossil fuels (FF)?

  • Biden supports a worldwide ban on FF subsidies by the end of the first year of his administration and net-zero emissions by 2050. His campaign website makes no mention of a complete elimination of FF.
  • Buttigieg also makes no mention of a complete elimination of FF, although he does support a net-zero economy by 2050.
  • Gabbard’s OFF Act details a complete transition from FF to a renewable economy by 2035.
  • Klobuchar supports a net-zero economy by 2050 but makes no mention of eliminatinating  FF. She supports “clean coal technology” and fracking.
    • Clean coal” is an unproven technology that aims to remove CO2 from the burning of coal. 
    • Fracking releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas 25 times as potent as CO2. In August 2019, scientists at Cornell University found credible evidence that fracking was behind the rise in methane levels.
  • Sanders’s Green New Deal provides for a complete elimination of FF from electricity and transportation by 2030 and from the rest of the U.S. economy by 2050. He would also levy taxes and fees on fossil fuel corporations, as well as eliminate agricultural dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Steyer‘s plan would phase out all FF jobs over 25 years, end the leasing of public lands for FF production, stop all new permits for FF infrastructure, and stop the construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines. 
    • In a December 2019 interview with The Verge, Steyer clarifies that, under his plan, the extraction and burning of fossil fuels would be completely phased out by 2045. However, this concept does not appear on his campaign website.
  • Warren supports the elimination of the use of FF by decarbonizing the electrical grid, transportation, and building construction and renovation. However, according to the Sunrise Movement’s Presidential Scorecard, Warren has no plan to phase out extraction altogether. This would infer that she does not support eliminating (or at least has no plan to eliminate) fossil fuels altogether.
  • Yang’s campaign website points out the goal of “transition[ing] away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.” However, in the September 2019 town hall that CNN hosted on the climate crisis, Yang stated that he would not ban the export of fossil fuels. To export fossil fuels, the U.S. must first extract them. Therefore, while he might support a transition away from the burning of fossil fuels within the U.S., he does not support ending their extraction.

Does the candidate have a target date for the elimination of FF?

  • Biden aims for net-zero emissions by 2050 but has not mentioned whether his plan includes an outright elimination of the burning, export, or extraction of FF or the building of new FF infrastructure. 
  • Bloomberg’s plan sets a target date of 2030 for 50% decarbonization “to put us on a path” to decarbonization before 2050. However, his “Clean Transportation Plan” points to a goal to reduce (no eliminate) diesel pollution from buses and trucks.
  • Buttigieg states he wants to end subsidies for fossil fuel companies and close public lands to new fossil leases, weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, but never gives a target date for this. Like Biden, he aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • Gabbard’s OFF Act aims to end the burning of FF by and new FF infrastructure 2035. This 2035 goal also includes the “eliminat[ion] [of] extractive processes that threaten natural resources including water quality, air quality and needlessly shorten the lives of those threatened by the last vestiges of the fossil fuel economy.”
    • Since all extractive processes threaten natural resources, the OFF Act’s timeline includes the phasing out of all forms of extraction.
  • Klobuchar aims for net-zero emissions by 2050, ending federal tax subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and production, and putting a carbon pricing system in place and wants to ban new fossil fuel permits on federal lands but has no target date for elimination of fossil fuels.
  • Sanders’s GND includes a timeline for reaching 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation no later than 2030 and for a completely decarbonized economy no later than 2050. 
  • Steyer does not include a clear timeline on his campaign website but told The Verge that, under his plan, the U.S. would no longer be extracting or burning FF by 2045.
  • Warren sets a target goal of “100% carbon-neutral power by 2030, including carbon-free baseload solutions, putting us on the path to a 100% emissions-free [but not necessarily renewable] electricity supply by 2035.” However, she has no timeline for eliminating their extraction. 

Does the candidate address the futures of those employed by the fossil fuel industry in the U.S.? If so, how?

  • Most candidates’ plans, except for Yang’s, address the future of workers in the fossil fuel industry through training, jobs guarantees (also known as a just transition), pensions, and/or health plans. 

Does the candidate have industry-specific plans in place to address climate change (such as AOC’s plan to combat airplane emissions with high-speed rail)? If so, what are they?

  • All candidates have plans to target at least one specific sector of the economy. Agriculture, fossil fuels, and transportation (passenger and freight) figures are  in many candidates’ plans.
    • Plans that include reforms in agriculture
      • Sanders’s plan supports the local food economy to cut down on farm-to-table carbon emissions and regenerative agriculture to capture carbon in the soil.
      • Gabbard intends to end subsidies for agribusiness.
      • Biden intends to work with farmers and ranchers to engage in sustainable agriculture but does not explain how.
    • Plans aiming to reform transportation:
    • Plans that include nuclear energy:
      • Klobuchar does not support eliminating nuclear power but will only expand it if it can be produced more safely. She does not elaborate as to what constitutes “safe” nuclear energy.
        • Although nuclear energy does not emit CO2, it requires uranium mining. Like coal mining, uranium mining most frequently occurs through strip mining, which strips away large tracts of land, exposes miners to radioactive dust, and holds the potential to pollute underground aquifers, which communities depend on for drinking and irrigation.
    • Sanders is the only candidate whose climate plan involves investments in sustainable plastics.
    • Warren’s plan includes a green manufacturing initiative to invest in green energy produced in the United States.
    • Klobuchar also supports cap-and-trade (whose effectiveness in fighting the climate crisis is uncertain).

Does the candidate have a plan to address the contributions to climate change by agribusiness, here and abroad?

  • All candidates address the role of agriculture domestically, albeit with varying approaches. None of their plans address the role of agriculture or agribusiness on an international level.
    • Biden and Klobuchar support the use of carbon capture and storage on farms. Additionally, Biden supports the use of biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, over fossil fuels.
    • Biden, Sanders, Steyer, and Yang support the use of regenerative agriculture (a process by which, through the elimination of chemicals, the soil sequesters carbon).
    • Additionally, Sanders supports the growth of organic agriculture (eliminates the use of chemicals and genetically modified organisms) and the local food economy (reduces the number of miles that food must travel from farm to table).
    • Buttigieg mentions investments and research and development to ensure sustainable farming practices.

Does the candidate address marginalized communities? If so, how?

  • Most candidates address the needs of marginalized communities. 
    • One plan is to establish funds to help marginalized communities with job placement and recovery from environmental disasters (Sanders).
    • Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer, Warren, and Yang have proposed investments in or assistance of frontline communities (low-income communities that suffer first and the longest from natural disasters and industrial pollution). 
    • Biden proposes working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to make low-income housing more sustainable.
    • Gabbard’s OFF Act plans to protect minority, disadvantaged and low-income communities by preventing polluters from targeting such communities, as well as ensuring the protection of their civil rights by removing a Supreme Court decision that places an “unreasonable burden of proof of racism for claims of environmental racism.” 

Does the candidate address unemployment rates? If so, how?

How does the candidate propose paying for their plan?

  • Most candidates propose paying for their plans by ending fossil fuel subsidies. 
  • Biden and Warren propose restructuring the tax code to increase taxes on the wealthy.
  • Sanders’s plan will pay for itself through fees and taxes on fossil fuels, saving money otherwise spent on wars for oil, taxes on the wealthy and corporations, income taxes from new green jobs, and energy revenue from publicly owned Power Marketing Authorities. If necessary, the plan calls for litigation against corporations that contributed to the climate crisis.

What is the candidate’s stance regarding the Amazon forest fires?

  • All candidates agree that the fires pose a threat, but only a minority point the blame at the Bolsonaro government in Brazil and/or support sanctions.
    • Sanders had the most aggressive response, blaming the fires on the Bolsonaro government and telling Hill TV that  he would “absolutely” consider sanctions on Brazil. 
    • Warren has called for Bolsonaro to take responsibility for the fires.
    • Steyer has called for the use of U.S. aid to investigate environmental crimes like the Amazon fires.
    • Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Yang have made vague comments on the fires, mostly using them as proof that the climate crisis is real.
      • Buttigieg tweeted:
        • Fires like the one raging in the Amazon are a reminder not only of the urgency to act on climate change but also of the failure of our politics to meet the great challenges of our time. Politicians can no longer fiddle while the world burns. The time to act is now. 
      • Klobuchar called the fires a “tragedy” and called for the U.S. to re-enter the Paris Agreement to “have clout and leverage with allies [to] make a big difference” in such situations.
      • Yang’s only comment is a tweet stating that the fires are “frightening.”
    • Biden and Gabbard have not made any comments on the fires.
      • It should be noted that one of Biden’s reported donors, Larry Fink, indirectly profits from deforestation in the Amazon. Fink is the CEO of the investment firm BlackRock, which has invested in the meatpacking company JBS. JBS “has been caught year after year buying cattle raised on illegally deforested Amazon land.”
      • There is no evidence to suggest that Gabbard profits from remaining silent on the issue.

Does the candidate address the climate crisis outside the United States? If so, what is their plan for working with international leaders?

  • All candidates intend to revoke the Trump administration’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement.
  • Cooperative agreements with developing nations and international aid are also popular solutions. The only candidate who does not make such proposals is Klobuchar.  

The recently signed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), makes no mention of climate change and lacks substantial reform to the international tribunal system and  allows corporations to sue countries, states, and municipalities for enacting environmental legislation. Biden supports this. Only Sanders and Steyer oppose the deal.

Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Gabbard, Klobuchar, and Warren support the USMCA.

  • According to a spokesperson from the Biden campaign, he “supports [the USMCA] given the improvements that the labor and progressive movements won to improve it.”
  • Bloomberg’s campaign website makes no mention of the USMCA, but Politico states that he supports the agreement. He has not provided a reason for his support.
  • Buttigieg also supports the USMCA, although he believes it could do more to protect American workers.
  • Gabbard, Klobuchar, and Warren voted to ratify the agreement in the House and Senate. 
    • Klobuchar and Warren used improvements regarding labor and trade in agriculture as their justification in the February 7, 2020, debate.
    • Gabbard has not provided a reason for her “Aye” vote to the media or via social media. 
    • The USMCA’s failure to address the climate crisis and lack of substantial change to the right of corporations to bring lawsuits in international tribunals leaves the door open for corporate lawsuits against states, municipalities, and the federal government for enacting climate legislation that threatens profits. Therefore, if Gabbard’s OFF Act were to pass without a renegotiated USMCA, litigation could render OFF null and void.

Sanders and Steyer are the only candidates who oppose the USMCA. 


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