Update: John Edwards dropped out of the presidential race on Jan. 30, 2008.

During his single term representing North Carolina in the U.S. Senate, John Edwards received a middling 63 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters — a score lower than might have been expected because he missed a number of key votes while campaigning for president and vice president in 2003 and 2004. In his current campaign for president, Edwards has been more aggressive on the issue of climate change than other Democratic candidates, who’ve ended up following his lead.

Read an interview with John Edwards by Grist and Outside.

Key Points

  • First presidential candidate to call for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, in March 2007. Would launch a cap-and-trade program in 2010 to bring emissions down 15 percent by 2020, as an interim step to the 2050 goal.
  • First major presidential candidate to make his campaign carbon-neutral, in March 2007. He’s buying carbon offsets to neutralize the effects of his campaign travel and office energy use, while also cutting energy consumption at campaign offices, buying recycled-paper office products, and encouraging staff to walk to work and take other energy-saving measures. (Tom Vilsack was actually the first candidate to go carbon neutral, but he dropped out of the race in February 2007.)
  • Introduced a detailed energy plan before any of the other candidates.
  • Proposes a $13-billion-a-year New Energy Economy Fund that would invest in renewable energy, efficiency, carbon-capture technology, and cleaner cars; help entrepreneurs start new clean businesses; encourage Americans to buy more-efficient appliances and save energy; and help workers in carbon-intensive industries transition to new job fields. The fund would be financed by the auctioning of permits to emit greenhouse gases and the repeal of some oil-industry tax breaks.
  • Calls for a ban on new coal power plants unless they’re compatible with carbon-capture and -storage technology.
  • Opposes nuclear power.
  • Opposes government investment in coal-to-liquid technologies.
  • Has been endorsed by Friends of the Earth Action for his position on nuclear power and early support of strict climate legislation.

Video and Audio

Watch Edwards explain his positions on climate change and energy issues at a Nov. 17, 2007, Grist-sponsored forum: