Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled a four-year, US$2-trillion climate strategy yesterday that represented a major acceleration from his previous plan. It was interpreted as a sign that his party sees climate change as an issue that will drive voters to the polls this fall, drawing crucial support from younger and first-time voters.
“The $2 trillion in spending across four years is in place of the more modest $1.7 trillion over 10 years plan that Biden proposed last year while fighting for the nomination,” Bloomberg Green reported Monday, in anticipation of yesterday’s announcement. “Most of the investments in the new proposal would be one-time costs, with the goal of spending the money to the maximum extent possible during those four years.”
The plan “would significantly reduce the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels, and the 15-year timeline for a 100% clean electricity standard is far more ambitious than anything Biden has previously proposed,” the Washington Post writes. “The blueprint was quickly hailed by environmentalists and liberals as a big step forward in the climate effort, and just as quickly denounced by Republicans as an unwieldy plan that would raise energy costs.”
Biden is proposing to create a million jobs over four years by upgrading four million buildings and insulating two million homes, the Post says. The plan envisions cash rebates to help homeowners install energy-efficient windows and appliances and replace older cars with newer, more fuel-efficient models.
“We’re not just going to tinker around the edges,” Biden said in a home-state speech in Wilmington, DE. “We’re going to make historic investments and seize the opportunity and meet this moment in history.”
Biden would also create a new Environment and Climate Justice Division at the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute anti-pollution cases, the Post adds. “These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams,” the nominee said. “These are actionable policies that we can get to work on right away.”
The Post has details of the plan, reaction from the current occupant of the White House, and a comparison with the more modest approach that President Barack Obama adopted from 2009 to 2016, when Biden served as U.S. vice president.
“While some changes could be made through executive actions, a sweeping plan like Biden’s could face resistance in Congress—one reason the campaign is framing it as an economic package and not solely an environmental initiative,” the paper explains. “If Biden wins, its fate may depend on whether Democrats retake the Senate, but the plan’s supporters say it has more appeal than a cap-and-trade system,” an idea that “proved politically toxic” when Obama tried it out more than a decade ago.
The Post says, the more ambitious targets and funding in yesterday’s announcement “came after Biden faced pressure from young left-leaning activists and major environmental groups to do more to address what they see as a generational crisis,” and with a recent Pew Center poll showing that nearly two-thirds of Americans want more aggressive federal government action on climate.
“This is a question about who shows up at the polls,” said billionaire climate campaigner Tom Steyer, previously a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and now co-chair of the Biden campaign’s Climate Engagement Advisory Council. “After four years of Donald Trump, I think people understand how huge a choice this is, and how different the views of the future and the values are of the two candidates.”
While polling in May put Biden on shaky ground with younger voters in 11 swing states, and “younger generations have traditionally sat out elections more often older groups, there has been a groundswell of political engagement” since Donald Trump entered the White House, The Independent writes. “A Tufts poll at the 2018 mid-terms found nearly a quarter of those aged 18-24 had attended a march, walkout, strike, or engaged in civil disobedience,” and “the sweeping 2020 Youth Electoral Significance Index also found that young people are likely to have a significant impact on who wins the White House in 2020, along with the direction of Congress.”
More recent polling by Steyer’s organization, NextGen America, shows 51% of voters aged 18 to 34 supporting Biden, compared to 29% for Trump, but 9% of “potential Biden” youth voters still planning to vote for third-party candidates.
Steyer said he was pushing “for the most progressive climate plan possible,” adding that “Joe Biden has been sharpening his pencil in terms of this policy overall. He’s been filling it out and it’s been getting more progressive across the board,”
Last week, The Independent adds, a campaign climate task force co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), an architect of the Green New Deal, and former secretary of state John Kerry, a lead negotiator of the 2015 Paris Agreement, issued a series of recommendations for Biden’s election platform. The list included eliminating power plant emissions by 2035, making all new buildings net-zero for emissions by 2030, and adding 500 million solar panels and 60,000 wind turbines.