Jay Inslee Is Running On Climate Change, Here’s How The 2020 Democratic Field Stacks Up

Jay Inslee speaking at an event.
Karen Ducey / Getty Images

With the announcement that Washington Governor Jay Inslee is throwing his hat in the ring as a Democratic Party hopeful for the 2020 presidential election, the first reaction from many observers was, “Who?”

But with Inslee’s powerful record on the environment, a second look reveals the possibility that his candidacy could very well help bring environmental issues to the fore in the upcoming battle over who will win the nomination.

“I’m running for president because I’m the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s No. 1 priority,” Inslee said in a video announcing his candidacy, according to HuffPost.

Even if Inslee is an outsider, his credentials are impeccable in terms of being an ardent supporter of climate change action. He’s written a book on clean energy, helped Washington set a state-wide standard for renewable energy in its portfolio, and helped to start the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition as a member of the House of Representatives. A profile in The Atlantic in January called his state-level policies “arguably the most progressive and greenest agenda in the country, with fields of solar panels, fleets of electric buses and massive job growth to show for it.”

Inslee gives the rest of the field a pretty high bar to shoot for when it comes to environmental policy positions. Here’s where a few of those who have announced — and some who are likely to announce — their candidacy stand, as of now.

Bernie Sanders in the Senate.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont)

Sanders has called climate change “the biggest crisis of all,” and has consistently presented the environment as an important piece of his platform. He has called for nationwide investment in renewables, banning offshore drilling and fracking, and banning new fossil fuel licenses for drilling on public lands. He’s also managed to tie concerns about the environment to his crusade against corporate power, calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. He supports banning fossil fuel lobbyists from working in the White House.

Kamala Harris speaks at an event
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Sen. Kamala Harris (California)

A former Attorney General and before that, District Attorney in California, Harris has run largely as a compassionate pragmatist, a favorite of centrist Democrats to run in the mold of President Obama. But she is also one of the 2020 hopefuls to offer a full-throated endorsement to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, saying we must “aggressively tackle climate change which poses an existential threat to our nation.”

Beto O’Rourke

The former congressman from Texas has yet to announce a likely candidacy, but he took a lot of heat on the revelation that he accepted $430,000 from oil and gas-affiliated donors, more than 75 percent of which were large donations. His website offers fairly moderate prescriptions on energy — like reform that “optimizes the uses of current energy sources while incentivizing the innovation of new and renewable sources of energy,” rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, and “empowering the EPA to exercise oversight” of drilling.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)

The senator from Massachusetts is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, and is a staunch supporter of strong legislation to fight climate change. She has also linked her support for the Green New Deal to her proposal for an “ultra-millionaire tax,” suggesting that revenue could be earmarked to jumpstart said deal. “Climate change is real, it threatens all of us, & we have no time to waste to address it head-on,” she tweeted after the signing of the Green New Deal resolution.

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Cory Booker speaking at an event.
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Sen. Cory Booker (New Jersey)

Booker is another senator who co-sponsored the Green New Deal, calling the aggressive proposal to tackle climate change a “bold idea” that could benefit both the economy and the environment. “Doing nothing is not an option right now because our planet really is in peril,” Booker said in a video he posted of himself responding to a constituent question.

Joe Biden speaking at an event.
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Joe Biden

The former vice president is expected to announce his candidacy soon, and polls show that he benefits greatly from name recognition. He can also point to a fairly solid record on votes on the environment during his time as a senator — including calling for an end to oil and gas subsidies, for reducing road-building in national forests, and for including oil and gas smokestacks in mercury regulations.