Gillibrand calls for $10T to combat climate change

Gillibrand, like many other candidates, wants to neutralize nationwide carbon emissions by 2050.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) outlined what her administration would do to fight climate change. Her proposal measures up with many 2020 rivals, though she differs in some key areas on how to address rising emissions.

What would the plan do?

Gillibrand, like many other candidates, wants to neutralize nationwide carbon emissions by 2050. She also set a nearer target to achieve net-zero electricity emissions within a decade. Her plan would tax and phase out fossil fuels while tightening regulations. Many of those efforts — like closing the so-called “Halliburton loophole,” which exempts fracking operations from drinking water standards — would require help from Congress. Gillibrand also wants to boost the green jobs sector with prevailing wages, union protection and training to transition fossil fuel-dependent workers into emerging clean technology fields.

How much would it cost?

$10 trillion
$10 trillion in public and private financing over a decade. At least $3 trillion of that sum would come from the federal government, raised through new taxes.

How would it work?

The plan relies on on several policy levers: government procurement, stronger regulations, pollution fees and research and development spending.

Gillibrand wants to impose a $52 per metric ton carbon tax, spending the $200 billion of annual revenues on renewable energy, and a separate fossil fuel “excise tax” to generate $100 billion per year for projects to adapt to climate change. Like other candidates, she’d also end tax incentives for fossil fuel companies.

Gillibrand would reduce the federal government’s carbon footprint through purchasing and infrastructure permit requirements. She also wants to fund a clean energy “space race” and spend $100 billion improving the electric grid in rural communities.

Matching other candidates, she would end new fossil fuel exploration on public lands. She also would phase out existing leases.

How does it differ from other candidates?

The carbon tax — many candidates have been silent on the issue. South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney have backed a carbon tax, but others have been less explicit. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has called for a “legally enforceable standard” that would send a "price signal to the market." Ex-Vice President Joe Biden wants an “enforcement mechanism” to achieve emissions reductions.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for $2 trillion in public spending; Biden sees $1.7 trillion in federal spending driving $5 trillion in total investment; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called for $3 trillion from the federal purse to get an additional $6 trillion in outside dollars; O’Rourke called for a $5 trillion combined private and public spending surge.

Who would oppose it?

The progressive wing of the party could be skeptical of a plan that relies on a carbon tax, especially given the perception of Gillibrand's cozy relationship with Wall Street. The leftward flank of the Democratic base has drifted from the market-oriented policy, deeming it too permissive of industry and likely not aggressive enough to quickly and sharply curb emissions.

Republicans would generally oppose any policy like Gillibrand's that combines carbon pricing with new environmental regulations and spending.