Tulsi Gabbard on Climate Change: Where the Candidate Stands

How do the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls compare on their climate history and promises to solve the crisis? ICN is analyzing their records.

Tulsi Gabbard. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii and Iraq war veteran, is running for president as a Democrat. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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“Reaching 100 percent renewable energy as quickly as possible is required to save our planet from the worst effects of climate change.”
—Tulsi Gabbard, February 2019

Been There

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s home state of Hawaii is a constant reminder to her of the risks that come with climate change. Months after her election to Congress in 2012, she opposed a budget sequestration plan that would have resulted in the furlough of 2,600 employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, saying the move would make it harder to fight climate change. In 2017, she denounced President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, saying climate change “threatens the safety and security of the planet, especially in places like Hawaii where we are already experiencing its devastating effects.” 

Done That

Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, introduced the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, or OFF Act, in Congress in 2017 to promote a “just transition” from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources. In the legislation, she described the disproportionate impact of fossil fuels production on communities of color and proposed requiring 100 percent of electricity sold in the U.S. to come from clean energy sources by 2035. She also proposed requiring manufacturers to sell only zero-emissions vehicles, the electrification of train rail lines and engines, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and extending tax credits for wind and solar production and investment.

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The ideas Gabbard set out in the OFF Act included a charge to modernize electricity grids to help states set renewable energy standards, like the 100 percent renewable energy goal set in 2015 in Hawaii. Gabbard advocates for “significant investments” in renewable energy technology like energy storage and for loan guarantees for utility-scale renewable energy projects. She has sided with climate activists on most issues and has a 94 percent scorecard from the League of Conservation Voters.

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Getting Specific

  • Gabbard expressed early support for the Green New Deal, but when the resolution was released, she opted not to be a co-sponsor, citing concerns over the “vagueness of the language.” On her website, Gabbard said she supports the Green New Deal’s zero-emissions goals, but “I do not support ‘leaving the door open’ to nuclear power unless and until there is a permanent solution to the problem of nuclear waste.” 
  • Gabbard supports a ban on fracking and ending fossil fuel and nuclear energy subsidies. She has talked about the importance of investing in sustainable infrastructure and agriculture, calling agriculture “something that’s not often talked about when we’re dealing with climate change, but is one of the biggest contributors of carbon to our environment and to our atmosphere.”
  • She believes the U.S. “should be leading by example, leveraging innovation through science and technology, investing in clean energy, creating renewable energy jobs that cannot be outsourced, growing the economy, enhancing U.S. energy independence, and lowering energy costs for families and businesses, while reducing carbon emissions. We must continue to persevere and do our part to support efforts in the private sector and at all levels of government to combat climate change and protect our environment.”
  • In the OFF Act, she proposed redirecting fossil fuel tax credits toward renewable energy, but doesn’t outline a carbon pricing plan. Like many of her opponents, Gabbard has signed the No Fossil Fuel Funding pledge.

Our Take

Gabbard has a track record of speaking out in support of clean energy and climate policies, including sponsoring legislation, but her decision to back away from her early endorsement of the Green New Deal felt poorly played for someone who has described climate action as being treated like “political football.” Her past comments on LGBTQ rights and “radical Islamic ideology” could also alienate her from some progressive voters.

Read Tulsi Gabbard’s climate webpage
more candidate profiles.