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President Donald Trump announces his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement in the Rose Garden at the White House June 1, 2017, in Washington, DC. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Several candidates say they will stop all new fossil fuel leases on public lands.

To find out how 2020 Democratic candidates would use their presidential powers to address climate change, we sent six key questions to every campaign. This post includes nine candidates’ answers to the third question. You can find answers to the other five questions on the landing page.


If Republicans control one or both houses of Congress and legislation stalls, what executive actions are you prepared to take to reduce carbon emissions?

Biden: On day one, [I] will sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that put us on the right track to address our climate crisis. These executive actions will focus on:

  • Requiring aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations.
  • Using the federal government procurement system — which spends $500 billion every year — to drive towards 100 percent clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles.
  • Ensuring that all US government installations, buildings, and facilities are more efficient and climate-ready, harnessing the purchasing power and supply chains to drive innovation.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation — the fastest growing source of US climate pollution — by preserving and implementing the existing Clean Air Act, and developing rigorous new fuel economy standards aimed at ensuring 100 percent of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electrified and annual improvements for heavy duty vehicles.
  • Doubling down on the liquid fuels of the future, which make agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change. Advanced biofuels are now closer than ever as we begin to build the first plants for biofuels, creating jobs and new solutions to reduce emissions in planes, ocean-going vessels, and more.
  • Saving consumers money and reduce emissions through new, aggressive appliance- and building-efficiency standards.
  • Committing that every federal infrastructure investment should reduce climate pollution, and require any federal permitting decision to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
  • Requiring public companies to disclose climate risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains.
  • Protecting biodiversity, slowing extinction rates and helping leverage natural climate solutions by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030.
  • Protecting America’s natural treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters, establishing national parks and monuments that reflect America’s natural heritage, banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.

Warren: My plan for public lands includes signing an executive order on my first day as president that says no more drilling — a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling and fracking offshore and on public lands. I will reinstate the methane pollution rule to limit existing oil and gas projects from releasing harmful gases that poison our air and reinstitute the clean water rule to protect our lakes, rivers, and streams, and the drinking water they provide. I will get us back into the Paris climate accord and restore the vehicle emission standards and the Clean Power Plan.

I will also use all the tools of international trade to lead the global effort to combat climate change. I will make being party to the Paris Climate Accord and ending fossil fuel subsidies preconditions for any trade deal. I will push for a multilateral trade agreement to protect green policies like subsidies for clean energy and I will impose a border carbon adjustment to charge a fee to imported goods made using carbon-intensive processes.

There’s a lot a president can do herself. I intend to use every tool to take action to defeat our climate crisis.


Bernie Sanders: The bottom line is that there is a climate emergency which demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes. As president, [I] will declare a national emergency on climate change and take immediate, large-scale action to reverse its effects. This is an existential threat and we will do whatever it takes to confront it.

[I] will use executive authority to ban fossil fuel extraction on public lands, effectively ban fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining, ban offshore drilling, ban imports and exports of all fossil fuels, end all new federal fossil fuel infrastructure permits, aggressively regulate greenhouse gas emissions, use regulations to help us decarbonize our transportation and energy sectors, rejoin and strengthen the Paris Climate Agreement, and place a fee on imported carbon pollution-intensive goods. As president, [I] will impose sanctions on corporations and entities that threaten national and global emissions reduction goals.

[I] will break up big agribusinesses that have a stranglehold on farmers and rural communities and negatively impact our environment, and enforce the Clear Air and Water Acts on large factory farms. And [I] will focus the federal government’s significant resources, including procurement, on transitioning to a 100 percent clean energy economy.


Harris: Some things we can do:

  • Reinstitute a science-based Social Cost of Carbon, and incorporate it into all federal planning and reviews.
  • Stop new fossil fuel leases on public lands.
  • Use the federal procurement process and military research and development spending to drive investment in clean technologies and strategies.
  • Use existing regulations to increase efficiency standards, cut emissions of methane from oil and gas operations, and increase air and water quality protections.
  • Ensure the government is held accountable to frontline communities by implementing parts of my Climate Equity Act through executive order.
  • Encourage and support states that are aggressively acting to implement policies to reduce carbon emissions.

Buttigieg: I’d rejoin the Paris climate agreement and use every tool available to the President to regulate carbon emissions across economic sectors. I would also use the office to capitalize on the increasing interest in a carbon fee and dividend from some Republican Members of Congress. We need to remember that people are policy, so I would appoint leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and other key places with people who actually believe in environmental protection and solving climate change. Lastly, we can’t overlook action at a local level, so I would convene local leaders for a Pittsburgh Climate Summit to build commitments and share strategies to tackle carbon emissions.


O’Rourke: As President, [I] will use [my] executive authority not only to reverse the problematic decisions made by the current administration, but also to go beyond the climate actions of previous presidents. These executive actions would include, but are not limited to:

  • Re-entering the Paris agreement and leading the negotiations for an even more ambitious global plan for 2030 and beyond;
  • Strengthening the clean air and hazardous waste limits for power plants and fuel economy standards that save consumers money and improve public health;
  • Leveraging $500 billion in annual government procurement to decarbonize across all sectors for the first time; and
  • Setting a first-ever, net-zero emissions by 2030 carbon budget for federal lands.

Steyer: I will not hesitate to use the emergency powers of the presidency to protect the American public from the climate crisis, just as I would use those powers to protect our country from a hostile military invasion.

My plan will eliminate fossil fuel pollution from all sectors to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero global warming pollution by no later than 2045. This means massive and immediate mobilization to decarbonize every sector in an equitable way, including transitioning to clean electricity, setting strong standards for new buildings, retrofitting existing buildings to improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency, accelerating electric vehicle deployment and charging infrastructure, stopping methane leaks and eliminating the use and production of global warming super-pollutants, and efforts to expand new development while meeting pollution reduction goals.

Every part of the executive branch of government will bring its rules, purchasing decisions, and agency staff in line with our global and domestic science-backed carbon emissions reduction goals. My administration will immediately stop issuing leases to coal, oil, and gas companies for mining and fracking on federal lands, offshore, and in the Arctic, and rapidly and responsibly phase out existing operations. We have the tools to lessen the effects of this climate crisis, and I will ensure that they are not delayed, wasted or misdirected.


Klobuchar: As part of [my] plan for the first 100 days of [my] presidency, [I have] committed to taking the following actions to address the climate crisis:

  • Get the United States back in the international climate agreement on day one: On day one of [my] presidency [I] will get us back into the agreement, working so that the United States maintains global leadership to address the climate crisis.
  • Restore the Clean Power Plan: To address the climate crisis, [I] will immediately bring back the goals established by the Clean Power Plan, which set emissions standards for states with respect to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Bring back the fuel-economy standards: [I] will immediately restore and strengthen our fuel economy standards, which are key to fighting climate change. The Trump administration has weakened the fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks and has challenged the right of California and other states to follow more stringent standards.
  • Reinstate the National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee to immediately start addressing the climate crisis: The National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee was charged with translating the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete goals. [I] will reinstate this committee that President Trump let expire.
  • End the Trump Administration’s censoring of climate science: [I] will end the Trump administration efforts to censor climate science through actions like deleting climate-focused websites, removing the phrase “climate change” from reports, and preventing government scientists from attending conferences on climate change.
  • Set ambitious goals to reduce the carbon footprint of the federal government: The federal government has a significant carbon footprint. As president, [I] will set ambitious goals to increase the efficiency of federal buildings, data centers, and vehicles, reduce water consumption, and increase the use of renewable energy.
  • Undertake a comprehensive review and restore environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration: The Trump Administration has revoked dozens of guidance documents and rules that protect people’s safety, health and the environment when it comes to our power plants, oil refineries, national parks and wildlife refuges, offshore drilling, pipelines, and oil and gas development. [I] will undertake a thorough review of all the repealed guidance and rules, and work to restore our environmental and safety protections.

Bennet: As outlined in my climate change plan, if special interests block my climate plan from becoming law within my first nine months in office, I will act through the executive authority in the Clean Air Act and other statutes, and I will commit the resources necessary to the Departments of Justice and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to defend that action in court.

Author: Umair Irfan

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