Calling climate change “an existential threat,” Joe Biden, the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race, proposed achieving 100% clean energy and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 as part of a $5 trillion climate plan that would be paid for by undoing President Donald Trump’s signature tax cuts.
Biden pledged to go “well beyond” the climate policies embraced by the Barack Obama administration with a series of executive orders starting on his first day in office, and said he’ll demand that Congress enact legislation enforcing his mid-century emissions reduction goal.
“We must take drastic action now to address the climate disaster facing the nation and our world,” Biden said.
The 22-page plan comes as climate change has emerged as a litmus test for Democrats in the 2020 campaign. Candidates have been racing to out-do each other with calls for carbon taxes, fossil fuel bans, and multi-trillion dollar climate change proposals.
Biden, Obama’s vice president and a centrist running on rebuilding the middle class, has already received criticism from rivals and environmental groups for not being strong enough on the issue, even before the release of his climate proposal.
Biden’s plan is unlikely to mute all of his critics. While the document acknowledges the Green New Deal, calling the ambitious proposal by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “a crucial framework,” it doesn’t match its scope or aggressive time frame of reaching net-zero emissions by 2030.
Still, the document includes a series of policy proposals that mirror aspects of the Green New Deal’s call to de-carbonize the economy. It includes a promise to make “the largest-ever investment in clean energy research and innovation,” spending $400 billion over 10 years as well as a new federal research agency focused on developing clean energy technologies including carbon capture and new nuclear technologies.
The proposal also calls for massive improvements in building energy efficiency, a new network of 500,000 electric car charging stations by 2030, advances in low-carbon manufacturing, and incentives for the creation of “new, sustainable” fuels for aircraft.
“If executed strategically, our response to climate change can create more than 10 million well-paying jobs in the United States that will grow a stronger, more inclusive middle class enjoyed by communities across the country, not just in cities along the coasts,” a statement from the Biden campaign said.
Biden’s proposal, which says it would leverage $5 trillion in private sector and local investment through federal spending of $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years, would be paid for by “reversing the excesses of the Trump tax cuts for corporations, reducing incentives for tax havens, evasion, and outsourcing, ensuring corporations pay their fair share,” closing other tax loopholes “and ending subsidies for fossil fuels.”
“Vice President Biden knows there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world,” the plan said.
Yet even if Biden becomes the Democratic nominee and goes on to win the 2020 election, he would likely face fierce opposition to unraveling Trump’s tax overhaul from Senate Republicans, who now control the chamber.
Climate change’s rise from the back burner to marquee billing among Democratic candidates occurs amid a broader political shift on the issue as the devastating effects of climate change become more apparent in the form of catastrophic hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires. And it follows back-to-back scientific reports warning that urgent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are needed to stave off the worst effects of climate change.