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Biden's Climate Plan Not Nearly Enough, Say Green Groups

"We need even more ambition from candidates if we're serious about saving millions of people from death before entire nations sink into the sea."

Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden makes a stop at the The Cone Shoppe while campaigning on April 30, 2019 in Monticello, Iowa.

Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden makes a stop at the The Cone Shoppe while campaigning on April 30, 2019 in Monticello, Iowa. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

This article has been updated with comment from Food & Water Watch, Oil Change U.S., and 350.org.

Progressive groups on Tuesday welcomed a new 22-page policy proposal to deal with the climate crisis from former Vice President and current 2020 Democratic presidential primary contender Joe Biden, but said that the plan still wasn't enough. 

Biden's proposal comes after the former vice president endured sustained pressure from grassroots organizations demanding he provide a clear path forward for solving the ongoing environmental catastrophe.

The Biden campaign, in a statement announcing the plan, said that the policies would have positive effects for the U.S. economy. 

"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," the campaign said.

The proposal represents a recognition on the part of Biden's campaign that the party's base is not willing to accept a tepid response to the crisis from candidates, said Jim Manley, a former aide to former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). 

"Biden has been trying to take somewhat of a centrist tack," Manley told the Post, "but he has to appease the core of the base if he's going to win the primary."

On Monday, as Common Dreams reported, the climate group Sunrise Movement criticized Biden for not producing concrete solutions to environmental disaster after Biden was one of four Democratic primary contenders who declined to answer a Washington Post survey on climate policy. 

In a statement, Sunrise welcomed Biden's about-face. 

"The pressure worked," said Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash. "We forced them to backtrack and today, he put out a comprehensive climate plan that cites the Green New Deal and names climate change as the greatest challenge facing America and the world."

However, Prakash said, the policy proposal isn't enough. 

"We need even more ambition from candidates if we're serious about saving millions of people from death before entire nations sink into the sea," said Prakash.

Green advocacy group 350.org, in a statement, said that Biden's proposal was less than perfect. 

"While his plan is a start, it falls short of outlining a clear course to move the U.S. off of fossil fuels in our lifetimes and onto 100 percent renewables," said the group's North America director Tamara Toles O'Laughlin. "It's concerning that Biden’s plan embraces demonstrably false solutions including nuclear power, harmful biofuels, and boondoggle carbon capture and natural gas infrastructure that will continue to lock us into fossil fuel dependence with investments that harm the communities that already live in in areas where the impacts are being felt."

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"False solutions have no place in a Green New Deal," added O'Laughlin.

Oil Change U.S. strategic communications director David Turnbull pointed to Biden's proposal as evidence that the grassroots effort to push candidates on climate was working. 

"Today's climate plan from Joe Biden is the latest recognition that climate change is the defining issue of the 2020 election," said Turnbull. 

While Turnbull welcomed the former vice president's proposals, the plan has some glaring blind spots.

"Biden's plan remains problematic in several ways, and we hope he will listen to concerns from communities and scientists in the days and weeks ahead," said Turnbull. "Reliance on unproven techno-unicorns like carbon capture and storage promotes the interests of the incumbent fossil fuel industry, while forestalling critical action needed to swiftly move away from fossil fuels completely."

Other groups also critiqued the Biden plan on the merits and for its perceived lack of ambition.

Greenpeace USA senior climate campaigner John Noël, in a statement, said that Biden's proposal "does not do nearly enough."

"For someone who continues to call the climate crisis an 'existential threat'—and whose competitors are delivering with visionary climate plans with the potential to transform our democracy and economy—we hope to see more out of Biden," Noël said.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action, was more direct in his criticism.

"This plan embraces dangerous nuclear power, environmentally-harmful biofuels, and foolish dreams of carbon capture and sequestration that will lock in our continued dependence on fossil fuels," said Pica. "Like most candidate climate plans, it barely addresses agriculture and the U.S.'s international obligations as the world's largest historic emitter."

Perhaps the strongest rejection of the Biden policy proposal came from Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Action.

"Joe Biden's climate plan is a cobbled-together assortment of weak emissions targets and unproven technological schemes that fail to adequately address the depth and urgency of the climate crisis we face," said Hunter. "This plan cannot be considered a serious proposal to tackle climate change."

Biden leads polling in the 2020 primary, with a double digit lead in support over his closest two rivals, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). 

The Democratic field will meet for its first two debates on June 26 and 27 on MSNBC

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