The stage is set for climate change to feature prominently in the upcoming presidential election. The science has never been clearer. The public is more concerned than they’ve been in over a decade. Young people are leading a new wave of activism that is gathering pace, including in the U.S. And a newly emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party is calling for a Green New Deal of far-reaching climate, industrial, social welfare and employment policies.
Against this backdrop, the expectations and opportunities for climate leadership are greater than ever before. Among the growing pool of Democratic candidates, all accept the science and believe climate change is a threat that demands a response. However, many voters now expect candidates to demonstrate a much higher level of commitment to ambitious and urgent action on climate.
So how do we measure climate leadership? It’s easy to do quick tests on pledges and positions. But how do the candidates really stack up against one another? This is the question Climate Advisers’ Democratic Candidates Climate Race seeks to answer by looking at four key criteria:
- To what extent is the candidate building a mandate for climate action?
- Is the candidate putting forward detailed policies?
- What does the candidate’s past leadership look like?
- Has the candidate signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge?
Based on these criteria, here are the standings, as of 4 June 2019:
- Inslee champions an aspirational set of climate policies more extensive than any other candidate and continues to make climate change the central issue of his campaign
- Biden has moved from 23rd to ninth place following the release of his new climate plan; he is tied for first in proposed policies, but will need to focus now on building a mandate for this plan if he is to move further up the standings
- Biden has made the strongest international statements, including carbon adjustment fees or quota on carbon intensive goods
- Harris moves up to the top 6 after signing the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge; she is tied for third in the mandate building category and is undisputed first place for past policy.
- Booker inches up from 17th to 14th after signing the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. He has an outstanding voting record and policy history on environmental issues, but lacks discussion and proposal of climate policy on his social media or website
- Gillibrand is a dark horse climate candidate; she has an outstanding past policy record of defending the environment and public lands. Though she has fewer social media hits, the centrality of climate policy to her campaign is unwavering
- Tied for third, O’Rourke is doing better than many would expect; his proposed climate policies are ambitious and are boosted by his wide social media following
- Sanders is using his massive social media following to build climate mandate
- With the exception of Sanders, the candidates leading in the polls are clustered together
- Following Biden‘s shift to a much more ambitious climate plan, it appears that candidates are beginning to respond to calls for more progressive plans. How will other frontrunner candidates respond now?
The race is on
As the primary continues to unfold, there’s time for candidates to improve their position in the race. With that in mind, the race is split into a series of legs that will finish before key milestones on the journey to the convention, such as the first televised debate, the Iowa Caucus and Super Tuesday. If a candidate finishes poorly, she or he has the chance to improve in the next leg.
Initial Standings – 17 May 2019
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