'More Work to Do' But 'Major Step Forward': Progressives Welcome Biden's $2 Trillion Green Energy Plan

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a CNN climate crisis town hall on Wednesday, September 4, 2019. (Photo: CNN/Screengrab)

'More Work to Do' But 'Major Step Forward': Progressives Welcome Biden's $2 Trillion Green Energy Plan

"Biden gets a lot right... but he's still got a lot of room for improvement in increasing the scale, scope, and speed in which he addresses the climate emergency."

U.S. environmental and climate activists on Tuesday welcomed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's "Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future"--a proposal that is notably bolder than what he called for earlier in the primary.

"It's no secret that we've been critical of Vice President Biden's plans and commitments in the past. Today, he's responded to many of those criticisms."
--Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement

"Biden will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment, with a plan to deploy those resources over his first term, setting us on an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands," his campaign website says, detailing related polices on agriculture, the automobile industry, buildings, electricity, environmental justice, housing, infrastructure, public transportation.

The plan calls for creating a million new jobs in the American auto industry, shifting to a power sector free from carbon pollution by 2035, and upgrading four million buildings and weatherizing two million homes over four years. Those building upgrades would create more jobs, as would the construction of 1.5 million sustainable homes and initiatives in "climate-smart agriculture, resilience, and conservation."

The New York Timesreported that "in a call with reporters on Tuesday morning, senior Biden campaign officials said the proposal was the product of discussions with scientists, climate and environmental justice leaders, union members and leaders, mayors and governors, and representatives from the small-business and manufacturing communities."

In response to reporting on the proposal ahead of its official unveiling Tuesday, meteorologist and climate correspondent Eric Holthaus tweeted: "Wow. And wow in a good way." Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy at Data for Progress, acknowledged the plan's overlap with the Green New Deal.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a former challenger in the Democratic presidential primary race who ran with the climate crisis as his top priority and endorsed Biden in April, praised the proposal in a series of tweets Tuesday, saying that it "shows that he's serious about defeating climate change, and has a roadmap to become the climate president that America needs."

Evergreen Action, which is led by some former Inslee staffers, also welcomed the plan. In a Tuesday Medium post, Sam Ricketts, the group's co-founder, highlighted that Biden's proposal calls for major investments in a clean power-led economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic; includes enforceable, sector-specific benchmarks for a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy; and aims to hold polluters accountable for environmental injustice.

In a speech about his proposal Tuesday, Biden drew clear contrasts between himself and President Donald Trump. Climate reporter Emily Atkin, who tweeted some of his remarks, observed that "Biden's strategy here is to frame Trump's climate denial as costing America tons of money and jobs. And, to frame his climate plan as an economically exciting, job-heavy solution."

Evan Weber, co-founder and political director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, also noted the contrast that Biden drew between himself and the current president and pointed out the popularity of job-creating climate policies. As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, new Data for Progress polling shows majorities of U.S. voters support transitioning to a clean energy economy by 2035 and incorporating green infrastructure into the nation's recovery from the ongoing pandemic.

Varshini Prakash is executive director of the Sunrise Movement--which endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the presidential primary race--and served on the Sanders-Biden Unity Task Force, which released its policy recommendations on climate and other key issues last week. She addressed Biden's new proposal in a statement Tuesday that noted her group's efforts to pressure every single candidate in this cycle to put out climate plans that matched the severity of the crisis.

"It's no secret that we've been critical of Vice President Biden's plans and commitments in the past," Prakash said. "Today, he's responded to many of those criticisms: 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--on day 1, in his first 100 days, in his first term, in the next decade--not just some far off goals."

"Our movement made this possible, but there's more work to do, and the urgency of this crisis demands that we keep pushing," she continued. "Vice President Biden must build on these commitments and make these actions an immediate and urgent priority on day 1. Our movement, alongside environmental justice communities and frontline workers, has taught Joe Biden to talk the talk. Now let's defeat Trump and mobilize in mass after the election to get Biden to walk the walk."

Members of The Climate Mobilization also praised elements of Biden's new plan in a statement Tuesday while urging him to deliver concrete action addressing the planetary emergency and to consider even more ambitious policies in the future.

"Biden gets a lot right, especially around in the areas of racial and climate justice and equity for historically marginalized groups and working people; but he's still got a lot of room for improvement in increasing the scale, scope, and speed in which he addresses the climate emergency," said Matt Renner, the group's executive director. "Support for a Biden presidency from the climate movement should be contingent on his commitment to actually achieving climate safety in a just and equitable way, not simply going beyond what is considered politically possible."

Laura Berry, director of research and policy for The Climate Mobilization, argued that the proposed decarbonization targets don't go far enough.

"The last twelve months were the hottest we've ever experienced--an average of 1.3oC above pre-industrial temperatures. Vice President Biden's plan, while a clear departure from the market-based solutions of the past two decades, ultimately fails to reckon with the massive climate risks we face within the next decade," Berry said. "Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector would only cut domestic emissions by 27%--but we need to be eliminating emissions across the economy as quickly as possible."

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