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U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a Sunrise Movement rally at Howard University on May 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sanders Scores Highest Mark on Sunrise Movement's Climate Report Card While Biden Told It's "Parent-Teacher Conference Time"

Sanders scored 183 points out of 200, followed by Elizabeth Warren with 165 points. Biden landed far behind with just 75 points.

Julia Conley

Youth-led climate advocacy group Sunrise Movement unveiled its scorecards for the top three Democratic primary candidates on Thursday, showing Sen. Bernie Sanders the candidate who most successfully framed the Green New Deal as a top national priority and provided the most ambitious and comprehensive plan to reduce planet-warming fossil fuel emissions.

On the group's 200-point assessment, Sanders scored 183 points (92%), followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with 165 points (82%). Vice President Joe Biden, still widely considered the frontrunner in the 2020 contest based on national polling, landed far behind with just 75 points (42%).

The Sunrise Movement, which formed in 2017 and has succeeded in pressuring more than 100 Democratic lawmakers to back the Green New Deal, graded the three candidates on their framing and prioritizing of the proposal to create millions of green jobs and sustainable energy infrastructure to reduce fossil fuel emissions to net zero over a decade.

The scorecard also considered how well the various plans put forth by Sanders, Warren, and Biden demonstrated an ability to reduce emissions in a timely manner; their commitment to centering frontline communities; and the priority given to other essential elements of the Green New Deal.

"This year, we did something everyone thought was impossible: we set the bar for climate plans where scientists said it needed to be for a livable future. These scorecards show how much candidates have risen to the challenge."
—Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement
Sanders scored higher than Warren on a number of issues. He has said he would immediately stop the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure if elected, has outlined how his administration would prosecute fossil fuel companies for putting profits over the survival of the planet and misleading the public about the danger of fossil fuel extraction, and has a plan to invest in a robust public transportation system, while Warren only briefly mentioned her intention to "expand and improve public transit across our country."

"Warren doesn't have an infrastructure plan," Sunrise political director Evan Weber told the Washington Post. "So she lost a few points there."

But both candidates won top marks in many areas, including their plans to create green jobs to combat unemployment and inequality as well as the climate crisis, their specific timelines for ending fracking, and their plans to clean up toxic waste sites.

The Sunrise Movement found there was some room for improvement even in Sanders' platform, noting he should prioritize a plan to ensure that an end to fossil fuel imperialism does not give way to "renewable energy imperialism," to sustainably manage marine biodiversity, and should clarify his plan to create a federal taskforce for phasing out fossil fuels.

But both Sanders and Warren scored far higher than Biden. The former vice president has not prioritized a Green New Deal and has failed to provide specifics or pathways for his plans to invest in reforestation, end the era of fossil fuel extraction, or hold fossil fuel executives accountable.

"The Biden plan commits to a robust set of day one executive actions on climate and states that 'there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world', but beyond that, it is unclear where the climate catastrophe fits into his priorities," the scorecard reads.

Biden's grade for a student would mean it was "parent-teacher conference time," the Sunrise movement tweeted.

The Sunrise Movement said frequent mentions of the Green New Deal by several candidates as they vie for the Democratic nomination gives them hope that the proposal could become law.

"This year, we did something everyone thought was impossible: we set the bar for climate plans where scientists said it needed to be for a livable future. These scorecards show how much candidates have risen to the challenge," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and Executive Director Varshini Prakash. "Establishment politicians and pundits told us we were naive and should stick to what is politically possible. Today, leading candidates for President are running on climate plans more ambitious than any others ever proposed in American history, eclipsing those proposed even four years ago."

The scorecard was released as the Sunrise Movement announced it would expand its field program targeting establishment Democrats and Republicans in Congress in 10 states, planning to turn young voters' enthusiasm for the Green New Deal into down-ballot victories for progressives while also setting the standard for climate platforms among presidential candidates.

"From the climate strikes to record turnout in local elections, it's clear that young people are fired up," said Ahmed Gaya, the group's field director. "Young Green New Deal voters could determine who wins in key races in 2020."

The group plans to release scorecards by the end of the year for at least three other candidates who have gained some traction in the 2020 race: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

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