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WASHINGTON – The first head-to-head Democratic primary debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will take place this Sunday in Washington, DC, and the climate crisis continues to rank as a priority issue for voters [1]. Specifically, policies to rein in the fossil fuel industry and deliver a Green New Deal have gained traction with voters over the course of the primary, entering the political mainstream and forcing a more ambitious discussion of climate policy than in any previous election cycle [2]. 

Donald Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — which thus far has included attempting to bail out the oil industry [3] — shows that he is wildly unprepared in the face of a global emergency. With the climate crisis a top issue for people across the country, the eventual Democratic nominee needs to champion bold, visionary climate policies that turn out voters in November. 

Since May 2019, Greenpeace USA has maintained a scorecard [4] to evaluate and rank each candidate’s climate platform. To determine the ranking, we reviewed each candidate’s legislative records, public statements, and responses to a 29-question survey on two criteria. First, their commitment to end the fossil fuel era by enacting policies to halt oil, gas, and coal expansion, phase out existing production, and center fossil fuel workers and climate-impacted communities in the transition to a renewable energy economy. And second, their vision for a Green New Deal, including mobilizing towards 100 percent renewable energy for all, creating millions of family-sustaining jobs, and securing a better future for communities that have borne the brunt of fossil fuel industry exploitation.

On the Republican side, Trump remains in last place with an F, the only candidate to earn zero out of a possible 100 points. With just two Democratic contenders left, here’s how they stack up. 

Bernie Sanders: 94/100 (A+)

Sanders remains the only candidate in the field to earn an A+ in our ranking. He has championed polluter accountability on the campaign trail and was an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the Senate. 

At the upcoming debate, Sanders would do well to highlight the following elements of his climate platform that are popular with Democratic voters, especially young voters:

See Bernie Sanders’ full climate plan at:

Joe Biden: 72/100 (B+)

After debuting with a D- in our original ranking and facing pressure from activists, Biden released a far more ambitious climate platform in June 2019, good enough for 72 out of a possible 100 points. He has been particularly clear about the need to end fossil fuel subsidies, and to protect workers in the struggling coal industry with a just transition to renewable energy. 

In order to win over climate voters, however, he should commit to the following policies on Sunday’s debate stage:

See Joe Biden’s full climate plan at:


[1] Where’s Your 2020 Candidate on Climate? - Greenpeace USA ➤[2] The Green New Deal | Bernie Sanders Official Website ➤[3] Joe Biden Agrees to a Phaseout of Fossil Fuel Production in the U.S. - YouTube ➤[4] Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice | Joe Biden ➤