Biden Releases $2T Climate Plan Focused on Green Jobs and Environmental Justice

Image: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is ‘hoax,'” Joe Biden said in a speech announcing his new $2 trillion climate plan yesterday, “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs'” he added.

His new climate plan will launch a national effort aimed at creating the jobs needed to “build a modern, sustainable infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future.” The $2T investment will be deployed over Biden’s first term. 

In addition, Biden outlines the following goals as the second part of his “Build Back Better” proposal:

  • 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035
  • 1 million new US auto jobs for green cars
  • Upgrading 4 million buildings and weatherizing 2 million homes over 4 years
  • Building out zero-emission public transportation options in 100,000 cities
  • Supporting the construction of 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units
  • Reducing costs for critical clean energy technologies: battery storage, negative emissions technologies, the next generation of building materials, renewable hydrogen, and advanced nuclear
  • Creating 250,000 jobs plugging abandoned oil and natural gas wells and reclaiming abandoned coal, hardrock, and uranium mines
  • No ban on fracking, (which required an act of Congress), instead the prohibition of new fracking on public lands
  • Centering environmental justice in policymaking including establishing an Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the U.S. Department of Justice

 

The Bottom Line: If Biden is elected, this will be the most ambitious climate agenda our nation has ever seen. That’s a commendable accomplishment but the success of this plan will depend on the composition of the federal government come 2021 and beyond. The entire Democratic party must cohesively use this plan and its jobs focus as a campaigning platform. Those of us who want to see our government take a bold stand on climate action must also do everything in our power to elect candidates who are aligned with the vision set forth by the Biden climate plan. The plan in and of itself is not the achievement, though it’s an important milestone.

A Litte More on That: In order to win elections and pass the many pieces of this climate plan through Congress, Democrats must be steadfast in their messaging on job creation, especially during the COVID-19 economic recovery. For years, Republicans have labeled action on climate change and the environment as a “jobs killer” and most recently have said that the economic downturn resulting from the coronavirus is a preview of the Green New Deal.

Shutting down statements from prominent Republicans that any plan resembling the Green New Deal will destroy jobs will be key to Democrats progressing their climate platform. After all, as it stands, 1 million clean energy jobs have been lost under the leadership of President Trump, and Republicans in Congress have enabled this destructive agenda.

Additionally, according to a June 2020 Yale, Climate Nexus, and George Mason poll, more than 70% of voters support legislation to achieve a 100% clean economy by eliminating fossil fuels, giving Democrats all the more leverage to tout their clean energy jobs agenda and how it differs from that of their Republican colleagues.

Building on Momentum: Below are two maps showing all the states and utilities that have already set 100% clean targets, most have target dates ranging between 2040-2050. Biden’s plan will be instrumental in getting remaining states and utilities to commit to renewable portfolio standards and can help existing target dates become more ambitious to fit Biden’s 2035 clean electricity target.

The Labor Buy-In: As the plan states, “American workers should build American infrastructure and manufacture the materials that go into it, and all of these workers must have the choice to join a union and collectively bargain.” While unions and labor groups haven’t always been supportive of expansive government climate plans, Biden managed to get several key unions on board with his plan. As former Secretary of State (and co-chair of the Biden climate task force) John Kerry tweeted:

The Progressive Buy-In: The Sunrise Movement which was reluctant to endorse Biden after he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination came out in support of the plan and its new targets. As the Guardian reported, Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said Biden’s revised plan responds to many of the group’s previous criticisms by “dramatically increasing the scale and urgency of investments, filling in details on how he’d achieve environmental justice and create good union jobs, and promising immediate action.”

BUT, Rhiana Gunn-Wright who worked with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the creation of the Green New Deal resolution last year feels as if the Biden plan still lacks substance as to how it will empower BIPOC communities and ensure that they have sovereignty over the clean energy transitions happening in their backyards as well as opportunities for wealth creation.

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