Many are worried about the potential that Trump is elected by the American people on Tuesday. And Trump gets all the media attention–not only because he’s a genius at harnessing the media, but also because Clinton temperamentally and perhaps politically prefers to cede the limelight.
However, that means that many people are not aware of her policy positions. This is understandable; her views lack broad overarching themes and tend to be a series of bullet points (foreshadowing!). But it is worth knowing that she has provided lots of policy (the Associated Press counted the candidate’s policies and Trump’s website has over 9,000 words about policy on his website while Clinton’s total is 112,735 words), even if it’s rather arcane and difficult to remember. Some even think her policies are secret or unclear.
So in this post, I’d like to point out a few of what Clinton’s policies are. Since this is a climate change blog, the topic I will focus on is climate change. While obviously this is an extremely important issue over the long-term, it is also worth posting about because it has barely been covered in television news (for instance, no questions throughout the entire series of debates). There are many other issues, but her policy positions on climate change are not so well known.
The good news is that Science Debate has asked several science-related questions and received answers from each of the four candidates. We also have websites and words from the candidates themselves.
So the straightforward message is that Clinton has three goals with a timeline of ten years from entering office, together with a first main overarching target. These are (and I quote):
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% by 2025. [Note: more ambitious than Obama’s target.]
- Generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of Hillary’s first term.
- Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.
- Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.
I don’t think these goals are very memorable or exciting. However, they are ambitious and they do have a major virtue: they may be politically tractable. This means that they might be accessible without relying on new legislation, but via Obama’s CPP (Clean Power Plan) and the mandate that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has been granted by the Supreme Court. This is important because it is very likely that, were she to win, Clinton would enter without a Democratic House (and it is roughly even odds that she’ll have a Democratic Senate). Since both of these bodies are needed to pass any legislation, if either of them is Republican, it is clear that there would be no climate legislation. In particular, it is politically infeasible that she would be able to pass either a cap & trade or carbon tax at the federal level with a Republican House or a Republican Senate. (Recall that, even with the House and the Senate, Obama failed to pass cap & trade early in his Presidency.)
However, the most important thing–even if she does not pass her own plan or legislation–is that she plans to continue to uphold the CPP and the commitments Obama made at the COP21 (Conference of Parties in Paris). The United States and China have by far the largest national emission contributions (18% and 20% of world emissions, respectively). This is non-trivial, since the CPP is making its way through the judicial court system, and it will take some political will to defend it.* Obama has set these contributions in motion so as long as she defends them effectively, that will make a large difference in terms of climate change and the United States’ international leadership on the issue.
Although the focus of this post is on Clinton, we can briefly compare her with the Republican nominee. Trump wants to “stop all payments of United States tax dollars to UN global warming programs”. This is not really the way the UNFCCC works, but he could mean stop spending money on mitigation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources on meeting the pledges ratified after Paris.** (He could also mean not providing any aid to developing countries to adapt to climate change and address loss & damage, although these aid levels are minuscule.) Similarly, he wants to focus on “real environmental challenges”. In the context of his tweet that global warming is a Chinese hoax, this suggests not responding to climate change at all.
This post is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion of Clinton’s (or Trump’s) energy or climate policy, but it’s meant to give you an idea of what they would do if elected, as well as point you in the direction of sites which will give you more information. Regardless, if you care about climate change, the stakes in this election could not be clearer.
Please post a comment or ask questions below–I’d love to know what you think!
* There’s a great story there, because the Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s final decisions (and then his death!) had major effects on the court challenge to the CPP. As John Upton wrote, “In dying, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia may have done more to support global climate action than most people will do in their lifetimes.”. But that’s another story for another post.
** At COP21 in Paris, an agreement was reached, but it wasn’t ratified until a sufficient number of nations individually decided to adopt their intended contributions according to their own internal national political and legal processes. China and the US ratified early, and the EU ended up pushing the level of ratification sufficient to bring the agreement into force. You can find which countries ratified and their contributions to global emissions at Climate Analytics.
Thanks Kian for this important post. I hadn’t seen the 30% by 2025 figure… that is bold.
Thanks for the comment Ewan! It’s worth noting that some are skeptical that she will put effort into achieving her targets (as we know her trustworthiness rating is low), but if we take the outside view (i.e. comparing her case with similar other cases), we should not be so skeptical. There is significant empirical evidence that candidates at all levels try to keep their promises (a nice summary is available at Vox: http://www.vox.com/2015/11/27/9801800/politicians-keep-campaign-promises). Obviously, whether you prefer politicians to keep their campaign promises depends on whether you approve of the candidate’s policies or not, but it’s good to know.
I do support her and I already voted. It looks like the down ballot congressional results will not be good even if she succeeds at becoming my next president. However, if the Democrats take over the Senate (not likely the House at this point) that could make the difference at least in the Supreme Court. But with a split Congress, I doubt much will get passed. the Republicans who survive will be even more intransigent than the current crop.
Thanks for the comment! I agree with your analysis: it seems extremely unlikely that the House will go Democratic, so with a split Congress (and the current inability to act on climate change by Republicans), there is unlikely to be any climate action. So this makes the political possibilities for Clinton very narrow. Actually, this is the case with most of her policies, not just climate ones.
One interesting asymmetry that follows: Regardless of whether you like Clinton’s policies or Trump’s, it is virtually certain that Clinton will enter with major checks on her ability to pass anything, lacking at least the House, whereas it is quite likely (maybe 50%) that a winning Trump would enter with the whole Congress, allowing him massively greater ability to pass whatever legislation he wishes to.
We won’t know how accurate my Clinton predictions were, but obviously “it is quite likely (maybe 50%) that a winning Trump would enter with the whole Congress, allowing him massively greater ability to pass whatever legislation he wishes to.” looks pretty good at this point. More on the implications of Trump’s election here.