Candidate Tracker

Where the 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand on Climate and Energy Issues


March 9, 2020


Data Tool

Reading time

43 minutes

The RFF Candidate Tracker was developed to compare and contrast the positions of the 2020 presidential candidates from both major political parties on a range of climate- and energy-related topics.

The Tracker

Background Notes

RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy. In keeping with that vision, we have developed the RFF Candidate Tracker as a public informational resource, to record and compare the policy positions of the presidential candidates from both major political parties across a range of climate and energy related topics. Within each cell of the tool, the headers provide a short summary of the candidate’s position on a topic, while the text below provides evidence for—or nuance related to—that position.

Sources: RFF staff gathered information for the Candidate Tracker from a variety of sources, including candidates’ past statements, campaign websites, policy documents, media interviews, statements at debates and town halls, and voting records. Citations for each statement are included in the tool.

Statement on Nonpartisanship: Please note that as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals; nor does RFF directly or indirectly participate in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.

Green New Deal: We opted not to include the Green New Deal as a separate category, given that the specific policy elements that would constitute a Green New Deal vary by candidate. In addition, some of the policies under discussion as part of a Green New Deal are captured in other categories such as carbon pricing or targets for clean energy.

Maintenance: RFF will be maintaining and updating the tracker through the campaign season. We also intend to include additional topics in future updates, including environmental justice/community transition plans, climate plan cost, and "green" investments.

Feedback: The candidates’ campaigns have had opportunities to provide input, and corrections and feedback will be incorporated into regular updates of the tool. Corrections and feedback can be sent to Lauren Dunlap at [email protected].

Media Inquiries: All media and press inquiries can be directed to Lauren Dunlap at [email protected].

Blog Post: Want more commentary on this tracker? Read the accompanying blog post here.


A printable version of the tracker can be downloaded below. There are versions from multiple dates, as the content changes over time; please note the date and check the online tracker for up-to-date content.


Listed below are definitions for each column title found in the tracker:

  • Carbon Pricing: A policy that places a price on carbon emissions, such as a carbon tax or fee (both listed here as carbon tax) or a cap-and-trade program.
  • Carbon Pricing Revenue: The allocation of the revenue generated from a carbon pricing policy (may include carbon dividends, tax swaps, general spending, and more).
  • Paris Climate Agreement: An international agreement brokered by the United Nations in 2016, with the goal of reducing global carbon emissions.
  • Fracking: A method of extracting oil and gas from shale rock formations using the process of "hydraulic fracturing."
  • Nuclear Power: The use of nuclear reactors to produce zero-carbon electricity, which produces nuclear waste as a byproduct.
  • Obama-Era CAFE Standards: President Obama's 2012 fuel efficiency standards, which set a 54.5 MPG standard for cars and light-duty trucks.
  • Methane Regulation: Policies implemented to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas systems.
  • Fossil Fuel Leasing on Public Lands: The permitting of fossil fuel extraction on federally-owned public lands and monuments.
  • Clean Power Plan: A plan finalized by the Obama administration directing states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Transition Plan for Workers: Proposed policies or plans to support workers in the fossil fuel industry in light of future decarbonization.
  • Clean Energy Targets: Year by which the candidate thinks the US should use 100 percent clean energy (if a position has been stated).
  • Greenhouse Gas Targets: Year by which the candidate thinks net US greenhouse gas emissions should reach zero (if a position has been stated).

Podcast Series

The “Tracking the Candidates” series on Resources Radio, RFF’s podcast, is being produced to accompany the RFF Candidate Tracker. Listen to these deeper-dive analyses on some of the issues included in this tool. Episodes will be posted over the next few months in this mini-series.

“Candidate Tracker: The Big Picture on Candidates’ Climate Policy Plans, with Joseph Aldy” (October 15, 2019)

"Candidate Tracker: The Future of Fracking, with Daniel Raimi" (November 5, 2019)

Photo Credits

  • Michael Bennet: Getty / Justin Sullivan / Staff
  • Joe Biden: Getty / Stephen Maturen / Stringer
  • Michael Bloomberg: Getty / Drew Angerer / Stringer
  • Cory Booker: Getty / Drew Angerer / Staff
  • Steve Bullock: Campaign Website / Steve Bullock
  • Pete Buttigieg: Getty / Chip Somodevilla / Staff
  • Julián Castro: Getty / Stephen Maturen / Stringer
  • John Delaney: Getty / Joshua Lott / Stringer
  • Tulsi Gabbard: Getty / Stephen Maturen / Stringer
  • Kamala Harris: Getty / Justin Sullivan / Staff
  • Amy Klobuchar: Getty / Joe Raedle / Staff
  • Wayne Messam: Getty / Joe Raedle / Staff
  • Beto O'Rourke: Getty / Joe Raedle / Staff
  • Deval Patrick: Getty Images / David Becker / Stringer
  • Tim Ryan: Getty / Drew Angerer / Staff
  • Bernie Sanders: Getty / Joshua Lott / Stringer
  • Mark Sanford: Getty / Davis Turner / Stringer
  • Joe Sestak: Getty / William Thomas Cain / Stringer
  • Tom Steyer: Campaign Website / Tom Steyer
  • Donald Trump: Getty / Mark Wilson / Staff
  • Joe Walsh: Getty / Alex Wong / Staff
  • Elizabeth Warren: Getty / Ethan Miller / Staff
  • Bill Weld: Campaign Website / Bill Weld
  • Marianne Williamson: Getty / Justin Sullivan / Staff
  • Andrew Yang: Campaign Website / Clara Lu


Jack Monahan

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