"When John F. Kennedy said, 'I want to put a man on the moon in 10 years,' he didn't know if he could do it. But he knew it was an organizing principle. ... Why not do the same here? Why not say let's get to net zero carbon emissions in 10 years not because it's easy, but because it's hard?"
—Kirsten Gillibrand, April 2019
As a senator from upstate New York, Kirsten Gillibrand has seen two climate hot-button issues land in her backyard: fracking and the impacts of extreme weather. She is continuing to seek funding for recovery from Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene and has cited the impacts from those storms—as well as the recent flooding in the Midwest—as evidence that leaders need to take on climate change urgently.
On fracking, her position has evolved. Early in her Senate career, Gillibrand saw fracking as bringing an "economic opportunity" to the state, though she regularly underscored the need for it to be done in a way that was safe for the environment, according to E&E. More recently, she has supported plans that would likely keep any remaining oil in the ground—making fracking a moot point.
Gillibrand boasts a 95 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation voters, having voted on the side of environmentalists 100 percent of the time since 2014. Since becoming a senator in 2009, Gillibrand has been a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, where she has co-sponsored multiple pieces of legislation, including bills calling for a carbon tax and for the Green New Deal.
- In late January, Gillibrand sent a letter to the environment committee chairman, John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), urging him to make the tenets of the Green New Deal central to the committee's agenda. She went on to co-sponsor a Green New Deal resolution in the Senate, along with many of her fellow 2020 candidates.
- She's been an active supporter of implementing a carbon tax, and in April, was one of four co-sponsors of a Senate bill that would put a price on carbon. The bill aims to reduce greenhouse gases by an estimated 51 percent by 2029, compared to 2005 levels, while generating an estimated $2.3 trillion over 10 years. Resources for the Future found that, if implemented, the plan would lead the U.S. to outpace the targets laid out in its Paris Agreement pledge and double the utility sector carbon reductions by 2030 that were promised by Obama's Clean Power Plan.
- Gillibrand signed the "No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge" in March, and is an original co-sponsor of a Senate plan to create tax credits for renewable energy technology and energy efficiency. She has said that Congress needs to "facilitate the development of renewable technologies like wind and solar."
- Gillibrand is opposed to opening new areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to offshore drilling and cosponsored legislation to keep the Trump administration from doing so.
Unlike most of her peers in the 2020 race, Gillibrand hasn't put out a lengthy climate policy plan—this really isn't her issue. But she does have a record in the Senate that, by and large, brands her as a climate progressive. Her early support of fracking may come back to bite her, though.