In Response to Our Climate Test: Steyer Improves His Grade


In response to a low grade on his Keep It In the Ground Climate Test, candidate Tom Steyer has further outlined key actions his administration would take and improved his grade from a C+ to an A.

Here’s the breakdown of how Steyer was able to improve his grade, which is great to see. Thank you candidate Steyer.

1. Prevent all new fossil fuel infrastructure and the extraction of oil and gas

Previous grade: B

Updated grade: A

Explanation: Steyer is committed to instating a crude export ban, as well as denying all permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure. Will additionally subject all infrastructure approvals to a rigorous climate test, in order to ensure that they will be carbon neutral by 2045. All new energy sources will be required to be zero carbon by 2030.

Ways to improve: No necessary improvement identified.

Details from Steyer Plans:

  • Stop issuing leases for fossil fuel mining, drilling, and fracking on public lands,offshore, and in the Arctic and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • End federal permitting for new fossil fuel infrastructure on day one of my administration, and responsibly wind down existing fossil fuel production nationwide
  • Invest $50B towards establishing a careful process to wind down fossil fuel production nationwide, and for promoting economic diversification and providing worker protection programs for fossil industry workers and communities
  • Stop construction and permitting for Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and subject all new infrastructure permitting to a rigorous climate test to ensure compatibility with achieving carbon neutrality in 2045
  • Protect the property rights of farmers and ranchers from eminent domain abuse, and to honor the treaties the US government has signed with Sovereign Tribal Nations

2. Managed decline: Phase out existing oil and gas production, with a planned, managed decline

Previous grade: C

Updated grade: A

Explanation: Steyer has plans for managed decline across all relevant sectors, including enforcement mechanisms (see below) to ensure compliance.

Ways to improve:  No necessary improvement identified.

Details from Steyer Plans:

  • 100% clean electricity by 2040, i.e. phase out carbon emitting plants by 2040
  • All new sources must be zero carbon by 2030
  • Financing and securitization assistance to phase out emitting plants
  • Mobilize a $250B investment in grid modernization and resilience
  • Mobilize a $200B investment in distributed reliability resources, including solar, microgrids, mobile batteries, and emergency power centers

Transportation Sector

  • 100% clean standard for all new passenger cars, trucks, and medium-duty vehicles by 2030
  • 100% clean standard for all new heavy duty and freight vehicles by 2035
  • Targeted vehicle replacement assistance and transportation alternatives programs for lower-income households
  • Mobilize $650B for clean freight, public transit, intercity rail, and fleet purchasing incentives
  • Mobilize $135B for universal broadband to encourage telecommuting and reduced vehicle miles traveled
  • Low-carbon aviation and freight transportation standards to reduce emissions 40% from these sectors by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045
  • Backed by revenue-generating market mechanisms that will direct at least 50% of proceeds to disadvantaged communities

Climate-Smart Transformation at a Glance

  • Incentivized by tripling federal R&D for decarbonizing these sectors
  • Mobilize $115B to provide public green space and tree canopies, safe walkable communities, and zero-emission school buses
  • Require all new parking structures to provide adequate EV charging infrastructure beginning in 2022 to support projected 2030 EV adoption

Commercial Buildings, Housing and Industry

  • 100% zero-carbon new commercial and residential buildings by 2030
  • 100% zero-carbon retrofits for all buildings nationwide by 2045
  • Provide $375B in public investment to accelerate decarbonization of existing homes, municipal buildings, universities, schools, and hospitals
  • Mobilize $195B for clean affordable housing and communities, urban parks and greenspace, and universal renter displacement climate disaster insurance
  • Establish low-carbon steel, cement, and manufacturing standards to reduce emissions 40% from these sectors by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2045
    • Backed by revenue-generating market mechanisms that will direct at least 50% of proceeds to disadvantaged communities
    • Incentivized by tripling federal R&D for decarbonizing these sectors
    • Mobilize $300B for Superfund site cleanup, brownfield remediation, and responsible re-use

Working and Recreational Lands: America’s Forests, Food and Parks

  • Mobilize $130B for forest health and wildfire fuel reduction treatments, to promote ecosystem resilience, fire safety, and carbon sequestration in federal, state and private forests, and for regenerative agriculture to promote soil health, help young farmers and family farmers, and to expand composting, no-till and low-till practices, and innovative crop rotation.
  • Establish regenerative and carbon-sequestering standards for farming and ranching on public lands, establish sustainable fisheries standards for US waters and vessels, and manage forest and ocean systems to optimize carbon sequestration and overall ecosystem health
  • Make national parks free for every American and dedicate $25B to upgrading and maintaining parks facilities and sites
  • Restore and expand national monuments under attack by Trump and expand coastal and ocean monuments and protected areas
  • Provide communities with the tools and funding they need to provide public access to safe and healthy parks or open space within a half-mile of every home
    • Establish low-carbon agricultural standards to reduce emissions and water pollution 40% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045
    • Backed by revenue-generating market mechanisms that direct at least 50% of proceeds to disadvantaged communities and small and mid-sized farmers
    • Incentivized by tripling federal R&D for decarbonizing these sectors

Drinking Water and Watersheds

  • Ensure that every American has access to safe and clean drinking water by 2030
  • Mobilize $130B for residential water systems, irrigation systems, and water efficiency and monitoring systems
  • Mobilize $75B for upstream watersheds, groundwater, and green infrastructure

3. Just Transition: Promote a just and fair transition for impacted communities and workers

Previous grade: B

Updated grade: A

Ways to improve: If we had included programs such as Medicare For All in our initial analysis—since M4A decouples health care insurance from employment and is thus important for employment portability during a just transition— Steyer would not receive an A because he does not support M4A (but does support a range of other worker protections, such as collective/sectoral bargaining and paid family and medical leave). However, without M4A as a linchpin in receiving an “A,” Steyer’s program is just as robust as Sanders’, noting that both are less-than-detailed with regard to how they will engage and empower decision-making for frontline communities. So, although we are not requiring it of other candidates, we could press Steyer to commit to a public health insurance program such as M4A.

Details from Steyer Plans:

“We will increase workers’ voice in the clean energy economy by removing barriers to workplace organizing and collective bargaining. We will support on-ramps like job and apprenticeship-readiness training and wrap-around services for individuals with barriers to employment. We will also provide support for minority/women-owned businesses, entrepreneurs, contractors, and local businesses to secure public contracts, grow quality jobs, and stimulate local economies.

“Most of the work that will be done in building a carbon neutral economy requires the skills and training of those workers currently employed in the fossil fuel, construction, and manufacturing sectors. The same technicians will be able to provide the same service, but instead of working with dangerous and toxic gas systems, they will work with clean fossil-free systems instead. In this way, the transition to working in the clean energy economy will be seamless for most workers: only the equipment they are installing will change. Most jobs that are associated with fossil fuels today aren’t going away; instead they will need to increasingly shift towards application in low-carbon processes and products, like electric cars, batteries, and efficient buildings and industry.

“With Tom’s plan, many workers currently employed in fossil fuel industries will have other good alternative employment options in growing industries, and workers with highly specialized training to work with fossil fuels will receive additional support, such as voluntary retraining or relocation assistance, health, pension, and wage guarantees, portability of union membership and benefits, and early retirement options.

“Tom’s plan will mobilize $240B towards social resilience professions, such as nursing, social work, and home health care, and dedicate $50B towards regenerative economy transition programs and worker protections. This will require projects that include federal investments to adopt project labor agreements, community benefit agreements, and other fair labor standards, such as skills and training requirements, prevailing wage, and responsible contractor criteria. Further demonstrating a commitment to labor, Tom will ensure portability of union membership and benefits for displaced workers; and require advance notice for workers and limit bankruptcy protections for companies that do not fully fund workers’ pensions, salaries, and health care obligations.

“Under Tom’s Justice-Centered Climate Plan, each community will identify what they need most where they live, and his administration will issue $250 billion in new bonds to invest those community-determined projects. This investment will mobilize hundreds of billions more in order to support projects such as sustainable housing and building upgrades, improved sewer and stormwater systems, clean energy generation and storage, urban greening, and clean transportation systems in the places they are needed most.

“Tom’s administration will start by making major investments to existing networks of organizers and experts who’ve been doing the work, and he will ensure communities have the tools, training, and dedicated resources they need. He will also build strong systems within the government to listen, respond, and act on recommendations from community voices.

“In too many low-income communities and communities of color, people are suffering from intentional pollution — dirty air, contaminated water, and toxic waste from fossil fuel plants. Cleaning up our country starts with holding corporations accountable for the environmental injustices they’ve caused, but it also starts with realistic goals and targets.

“In Tom’s administration, a new cabinet-level officer will coordinate local, state, and federal efforts to meet our climate targets. That officer will establish a high-level task force of mayors, governors, tribal leaders, and community representatives to develop an inclusive and transparent community-led process for ending environmental injustice.

“Tom’s Justice-Centered Climate Plan will create 46 million jobs over 10 years. He will also call on Congress to fully fund the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps to help implement local projects and plans. This will create 1 million jobs at multiple skill and educational levels, and get communities directly involved in their own preservation.

“With Tom in the White House, he will dedicate $2 trillion of public investment to mobilize over $6 trillion total for long-overdue infrastructure projects, including projects for advancing clean energy, climate resilience, and improving public lands. He will also leverage $250 billion towards sustainable housing and building upgrades, improved sewer and stormwater systems, clean energy, and clean transportation systems.

4. Legal Accountability: Hold fossil fuel companies legally accountable for their role in creating the climate crisis

Previous grade: D

Updated grade: A

Explanation: Plans for judicial and civil redress for environmental and climate harms are comprehensive and comparable with all other candidates receiving an “A” grade.

Ways to improve: No necessary improvement identified.

Details from Steyer Plans:

For legal accountability language, here is what Steyer says: “Recognizing, with our friends and allies, environmental crimes against humanity under International Law and developing a process to hold states and multi-national corporations accountable for extreme degradation acts against the global commons.”

  • Directing federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and hold accountable U.S. persons or corporations acting domestically or abroad, and state actors acting within the U.S., that have knowingly and intentionally spread false information or engaged in other illegal acts, including election interference in efforts to stop or slow efforts to enact meaningful climate change policy.
  • Making the prosecution of environmental crimes a priority domestically in all relevant agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice.Creating an Environmental Justice Division in the Department of Justice, clearly defining criteria for identifying acts of environmental racism, ensuring equal protection against environmental harms, and prosecuting environmental civil rights violations in actions under every agency’s jurisdiction.
  • Will also require that fossil fuel companies be ineligible for federal bankruptcy protection until after they have demonstrated redress to workers, communities and the environment

More details: