As the November election moves closer and closer, it’s important to read up on the candidates, both at the national and local level. Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee for president, and his website is full of his plans for tackling different issues.
Recently, the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force released their 110 page report that covers health care, the criminal justice system, the education system, immigration, and most importantly for this article: the climate crisis and environmental justice.¹
Biden’s website delves deep into these topics and outlines his many goals and how he plans to achieve them. This article will cover five broad categories: American Goals, Job Creation, Transportation Improvements, Environmental Justice, and Global Cooperation.
First and foremost, let’s start with what might be the most important sentence on his entire website: “Biden for President will not accept contributions from oil, gas, and coal corporations or executives.”²
If, and hopefully when, he becomes president, he will not owe fossil fuel companies and executives anything. They will have no power over his presidency. All of his promises and plans detailed below and on his website will not be forgotten because of a hefty donation.
Not only has Trump denied climate science and called climate change a hoax,³ but he has rolled back over 100 environmental and public health protections since taking office, not to mention taking the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord.⁴
Trump may not personally believe all the statements he makes about climate change, but his actions are what will affect the rest of the world if Biden isn’t elected to take counter-measures. The Trump Victory Committee has received millions of dollars from fossil fuel leaders and lobbyists such as Robert Murray and Jeff Miller.⁵
Additionally, Trump has filled his cabinet and staff with former fossil fuel lobbyists and former allies of the oil, gas, coal, and chemical industries.⁶
Biden has two main goals for the United States and a plan for how to pay for them.
His first, broader goal, is to set the “United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.”⁴ It’s important to note that net-zero emissions does not mean that there will be zero carbon emissions. Instead, it means that any carbon emitted will be offset by being absorbed by carbon sinks or through capture and sequestration. This is the goal that the European Union has also set for itself under the Paris agreement.
A wind farm on a grassy hill during sunset. Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash
Biden’s second, more specific goal, is for America to have a “carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.”⁴ This will require an end to fossil fuel power production in the United States.
Biden has made some comments about fracking, a technique for extracting natural gas, but it is not mentioned on his website.
Based off his previous comments, Biden wants to ban federal permits for drilling on public land but would allow existing fracking operations to continue.⁸ Fracking may not be a significant source of carbon dioxide, but it does release methane into the atmosphere, a much more potent greenhouse gas. Methane traps heat at around 84 times the rate of carbon dioxide.⁹
These ambitious, but necessary goals will cost a lot of money and Biden has a plan on how to pay for them. Biden has promised a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next ten years, while also adding about $3 trillion from private sector and state and local investments.²
Biden will reverse the excesses of Trump’s tax cuts for corporations, reduce the incentives for tax havens, evasion, and outsourcing, ensure corporations pay their fair share in taxes, close loopholes in the tax code, and end all subsidies for fossil fuels.²
Biden also has a goal to dramatically reduce the cost of certain clean energy technologies, including battery storage, negative emissions technologies, renewable hydrogen, and advanced nuclear.⁴ These technologies would be commercialized and made in America,⁴ leading in to the next section on job creation.
Biden’s environmental goals for America will lead to the creation of “millions of good-paying jobs that provide workers with the choice to join a union.” These jobs will range from construction to skilled trades to engineers.⁴
Two workers putting together a solar panel array.
In order to achieve a carbon-free power sector and reach net-zero carbon emissions, the renewable energy sector will need to rapidly expand, creating millions of job opportunities at different skill levels.
In addition to renewable energy jobs, Biden wants to improve America’s infrastructure by fixing roads, bridges, water systems, green spaces, and electrical grids, to name a few.⁴ These structural improvements will benefit American society at large and provide more jobs.
Biden also plans on upgrading buildings and building new sustainable homes, expanding the American auto-industry, and working on “climate-smart agriculture, resilience, and conservation.”⁴ All of these goals will create new jobs for people across the country.
These new union jobs will help expand the middle class to lift up the people that have been the most hurt by pollution.⁴
In addition to the 1 million new jobs Biden has promised in the American auto-industry, he plans to make improvements to transportation related regulations and standards, and expand green public transportation.⁴
Transportation as a whole is the fastest growing source of U.S. climate pollution,² so Biden has some wide-ranging plans to reverse that.
Biden will preserve and implement the existing Clean Air Act² which will help reduce air pollution and emissions from the transportation sector. Out of Trump’s 100 environmental rollbacks, 27 of them involve air pollution and emissions.¹⁰
Within the auto-industry, Biden will develop new fuel economy standards to ensure that “100% of new sales for light and medium duty vehicles will be electrified.” There will be annual improvements for heavy duty vehicles.²
Within the aviation industry, Biden will “pursue measures to incentivize the creation of new, sustainable fuels for aircraft, as well as other changes to aircraft technology and standards, and air traffic management.”²
Creating green public transportation options is an important step in reducing carbon emissions. Biden plans to “provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero emissions public transportation options,” such as light rail networks, improved buses, and new sidewalks.⁴
An electric bus in D.C. Photo by Mario Sessions on Unsplash
Specifically talking about buses, Biden plans to have all American-built buses be zero-emissions by 2030 and plans to convert all 500,000 school buses to be zero-emissions.⁴
On a broader scale, Biden will make it easier for the transportation sector to be powered by electricity and clean fuels.⁴
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice will be achieved when everyone has “the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”¹¹
Biden promises to work towards achieving environmental justice in both the short and long term. In general, the communities facing the most environmental injustice are low-income and minority communities, including Native American tribes. Communities such as these suffer the most pollution in America.
One of the first steps is identifying which communities need the most help. Biden will create a data-driven Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool to help identify disadvantaged communities that have suffered from the stresses of climate change, economic hardships, racial inequality, and environmental pollution.⁴
Smoke coming from towers at a power plant.
Once identified, frontline and fenceline communities, will have their pollution levels regularly monitored to hold the nearby polluters accountable.¹²
Under Biden, water bills would become more affordable for low-income communities, rural communities, and Native American tribes. This would be payed for with state revolving funds and funding from the Rural Utility Service.¹²
Biden also plans to re-establish two environmental justice groups as the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, who will both report to the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), who will report directly to the President. These agencies will work to address current and historic environmental injustice alongside local environmental justice leaders.¹²
Also on the national level, Biden will establish a new Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the Justice Department, an idea proposed by former presidential candidate Governor Inslee. This division would complement the work of the Environment and Natural Resources Division and hold polluters accountable for their actions.⁴
On a broad scale, Biden has promised that 40% of his $1.7 trillion federal investment will benefit disadvantaged communities through his spending on areas such as clean energy, energy efficiency, green public transportation, affordable housing, and cleaner water.⁴
Biden’s main goal on a global scale is to “rally the rest of the world to address the grave climate threat,”² something that Trump has actively avoided.
Biden knows that the U.S. is not the biggest source of emissions, in fact the U.S. only accounts for 15% of global emissions. The entire world needs to work together on the climate crisis if we are to make lasting change.²
Biden and Obama supported the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, which Trump has forced the U.S. to leave. Biden promises that on Day One he will re-enter the Paris Agreement.²
In addition to rejoining the Paris Agreement, in his first 100 days of office Biden will convene a world climate summit with the leaders of the biggest carbon-emitting nations to convince them to join the U.S. in our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.² Is 2050 good enough? Probably not, but it’s a start.
China, as the largest carbon emitter in the world, will be held accountable for its carbon emissions. Biden wants to “stop China from subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing carbon pollution.” China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a large source of fossil fuel related carbon emissions, and they will need to be held accountable to environmental standards.²
Biden plans to demand a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies, not just on China and coal. According to a 2015 International Monetary Fund study, if fossil fuels had been sold at efficient prices (not heavily subsidized), global carbon emissions would have been reduced by about 30%.²
Bernie and his delegates on the task force have pushed Biden’s environmental stance further to the left. Under a progressive Biden-led administration, the U.S. will move forward into the clean energy future and not drag its heels and clutch onto fossil fuels for dear life.
Even if Bernie can’t be president, you can still support people who have similar views to him by voting for both local and national representatives and senators. These people have the ability to stay in office for much longer than four years and contribute positive change for the U.S. and your state.
Please remember to register to vote if you have not already done so, and if you plan to vote by mail, give your ballot at least two weeks to arrive.
View more of Joe Biden’s plans and goals for America on his website. I could not cover every detail, so check out the sources 2, 4, and 12 for a detailed description of his environmental related plans and goals.