Regardless of the outcome, the 2020 election in the United States will be a pivotal moment for the future of global climate policy.

But before an eventual Democratic nominee gets the opportunity to contrast their climate vision with President Trump, they first need to secure the Democratic nomination.

A new report from the United States Studies Centre examines how each of the leading Democratic presidential candidates are positioning themselves on key issues in the climate debate and discusses the real implications for Australia and other nations’ approaches to decarbonisation and the environment.

“The Democratic candidates appear committed to fighting the general election with policies to sharply ramp up US decarbonisation efforts. Republicans will be hoping that Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement has goaded Democrats into handcuffing themselves to politically suicidal goals,” report author Dr Jim Orchard, says.

"Irrespective of who it is, if the next US president is one of the current Democratic candidates and they succeed in driving strong US action on climate, there will be significant ramifications for Australia."

Key points

  • Beyond almost uniform support for both the Paris Agreement and the Green New Deal, the major candidates are divided on nuclear power and whether fracking will be continued during a transition to renewables.
  • Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren see no role for nuclear in a decarbonised future, while former vice president Joe Biden is the most accommodating of nuclear energy.
  • Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s published climate plan is sparse on details, though he has a strong record of opposition to coal and gas-based generation.
  • Sanders has positioned himself firmly against the other candidates on the issue of decarbonisation costings and where funding will come from, with an extensive plan which excludes significant private investment. 

View report

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