Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden on Tuesday released his highly anticipated plan for tackling the climate emergency, pledging to make the US a climate leader again and to push the rest of the world on tackling the crisis.
The former vice president is the latest, and highest-profile, Democrat to release a comprehensive climate policy, a sign that the issue of climate change continues to heat up in the 2020 elections. The new policy follows weeks of criticism, questions, and speculation by the climate community about Biden’s plans, and it features ideas highlighted by other candidates.
Ever since a campaign adviser was quoted last month saying Biden supported a “middle ground” approach to climate change, which the campaign then denied, pressure has been mounting for him to clearly define his climate strategy. In the weeks that followed, Biden’s ducked questions from youth activists about supporting a climate debate and from the press about his climate policies generally. With little information to go off of, the environmental group Greenpeace recently gave Biden a D– on climate in their candidate ranking on the issue, and the policy and consulting group Climate Advisers ranked Biden second to last.
Biden’s new 22-page plan, just the second detailed policy rollout of his campaign, answers some of that criticism. Greenpeace’s climate campaign director, in announcing the group’s candidate evaluations, said, “In 2020, true climate leadership means nothing less than saying ‘yes’ to a Green New Deal and ‘no’ to fossil fuels.” Biden is moving in the direction of both of those positions with his new plan. Biden, his campaign said in its policy summary, “believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face,” saying the idea’s “ambition on an epic scale” and connection of the economy with the environment are “core” to his proposal.
Many pieces of Biden’s plan ring similar to the proposals put out by other Democratic 2020 candidates. For example, he calls for the US to run on 100% clean energy and reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050. Former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet have also laid out this same target, both drawing criticism from activists with the Sunrise Movement for not pledging to hit that target sooner. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose presidential campaign is centered on climate change, has called for hitting that target by 2045.
Biden pledges to conserve 30% of America’s land and waters by 2030, which is also similar to a Bennet proposal.
In the proposal, Biden outlines multiple ways to boost the military’s readiness and response to climate change, from investing in the climate resilience of military bases and security infrastructure to directing the national security adviser and others to develop “a comprehensive strategy to address the security implications of climate change.” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also outlined a detailed plan for how the military can better prepare for climate change, calling for the Pentagon to hit net-zero carbon emissions for all its noncombat bases and infrastructure by 2030.
In the environmental justice component of Biden’s plan, he vows to direct the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department to doggedly pursue corporate polluters. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has similarly pledged to boost the enforcement capabilities of the EPA.
Starting on day 1 of his would-be presidency, Biden commits to rejoining the US to the Paris climate agreement and signing a series of executive orders “with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama–Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track.” Every other Democratic candidate has also already pledged to rejoin the Paris agreement as president.
He pledges to invest $1.7 trillion dollars directly from the federal government over 10 years for the plan, combined with other private and state and local money to reach what his campaign says would be over $5 trillion in investment. The federal portion, Biden’s campaign said, would be paid for in part through a combination of rolling back some of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and closing some loopholes. Inslee has proposed $9 trillion in climate-related investment over a similar period, including $3 trillion in federal funds.
In the proposal, Biden commits his campaign to “not accept contributions from oil, gas and coal corporations or executives.” This means Biden will officially sign what’s called the “no fossil fuel money” pledge, according to his campaign, joining 16 other Democratic candidates in agreeing not to accept any contributions over $200 from the political action committees, lobbyists, or executives of fossil fuel companies.
One area where Biden’s vision stands out is on its approach to global climate action. Biden pledges to not only nix fossil fuel subsidies in the US, but to push for their end abroad as well. He also plans to host a global climate summit within the first 100 days of taking office to kickstart the conversation around all countries boosting their climate pledges to the Paris climate agreement, and proposes the State Department publish a new report to hold countries to account for meeting, or not meeting, climate targets.