Joe Biden is going to be the 46th President of the United States. There is no argument that we will see many changes as the transition from a Trump to Biden White House takes place. The stances held by each administration are in stark contrast to one another on virtually every issue. Trump spent his entire administration neglecting climate change and rolling back over 100 Obama-Era environmental protections, such as opening up protected land for oil drilling. Biden is making climate change one of the top issues to address when he takes office. He ran the most climate forward campaign of any top presidential candidate—and WON. So, what will the climate change initiatives look like in a Biden-era administration? We are watching in real-time as Biden chooses cabinet members who will have a hand in the next era of climate policy in the United States and abroad. Here are some of the challenges, solutions, and masterminds who will face this issue head-on.
Paris Climate Accord
In 2015, nearly 200 countries, including the United States enrolled in the Paris Climate Agreement – a pledge to cut carbon emissions in an attempt to curb the existential threat of climate change. When Trump took office, he withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. He claimed it was unfair to the United States, echoing his foreign policy tactics of “America First” and isolationism. Biden stated he would re-enter the United States into the Paris Climate Agreement on Day 1 of his presidency and adopt an even more aggressive carbon emission reduction plan compared to the plan drafted by Obama in the initial promise.
Undoing Trump’s Climate Tactics
President Trump spent the majority of his presidency pinning the economy and climate against one another, creating the narrative that we have an either-or situation; to reduce our carbon emissions in an effort to address global warming or keep our economy thriving. But we can have both. In 2020, this ideology is disconnected and out of touch with the technology and innovation we have developed for clean energy and sustainable communities. Trump set back a lot of potential progress for the United States to mitigate carbon emissions in the name of economic growth. According to the New York Times, economists have seen minimal proof that this environmental strategy stimulated the economy.
The Biden Transition and Climate Plan
Joe Biden will take office during what many say is a shift in American politics. He will be inheriting an unstable economy, record unemployment, a pandemic, and an undeniably divided America. The next four years will also be critical for climate action and decisions made during Joe Biden’s administration will define life for future generations, which is difficult to conceptualize. Biden, who does not endorse the Green New Deal, reinforced a climate plan that attracts both wings of the Democratic party and even some young or moderate Republicans. In working with key figures on the left, like Bernie Sanders, Biden outlined a climate plan that is all-encompassing. It is aggressive enough to address climate threats and inequity to answer calls from young progressives, but realistic enough to not isolate more centrist voters in places like the Midwest who rely on the oil or coal sectors.
This robust plan has a price tag of 2 trillion dollars to be invested over the first term of his presidency. It will put the United States on track to come out ahead of irreversible climate change repercussions through economic incentives and enhanced renewables. The Biden Climate Plan has come a long way since he became the presumptive nominee last spring and represents an attempt to unify the Democratic party while also striving for bipartisanship.
Some of the investments outlined in the Biden Climate Plan are:
- Carbon neutralization by 2035
- Upgrading buildings and homes for energy efficiency
- Public transit investment and efficiency
- Investing in low-income communities who suffer from air and water pollution (environmental justice)
You can read the full list here.
As stated above the Biden Climate plan is the most aggressive plan ever put forth by a President in American history. Enacting this climate strategy heavily relies on external factors such as the two Senate runoff races in Georgia on January 5, 2021, and the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The two races will decide if Democrats or Republicans control the Senate and will determine the level of ease with which the Biden administration can pass climate initiatives into legislation versus through executive order. Republicans want bipartisan climate action, just at a much less aggressive rate, therefore creating some tension between the two parties on this issue. COVID-19 is still dominating politics and our everyday lives. Since this virus is such an unprecedented experience, it would be naive to think that it won’t complicate enacting this climate framework.
Investing in the Future of Clean Energy
It is no secret that economic development in the 21st century should be centered around clean energy and sustainable infrastructure, in fact, it’s a necessity. Every year is crucial when it comes to the environment because with each passing year, we are closing in on the point of irreversible damage. At this moment, the US is nowhere near cutting the original carbon emissions promised by former President Obama when he enrolled the US in the Paris Climate Agreement, and even then, they were conservative. Biden’s legacy will hopefully be one that redefines the American way. Through implementing transitions to clean energies, sustainable infrastructure, and investment in the climate, all communities can benefit from this new generation of the American Dream. Cities can become more efficient and rural communities, especially those heavily reliant on fossil fuels, can redevelop from programs like carbon capturing and utilization.
Biden’s Climate Forward Cabinet Picks
John Kerry, the former Secretary of State who served during the Obama administration was a prominent figure to the Unites States enrolling in the Paris Climate Agreement. Recently, Biden named Kerry to serve as the first-ever special envoy for the climate on the National Security Council. Climate change is not just an issue Biden plans on addressing domestically, but also as an integral part of his foreign policy strategy. Kerry will have to regain trust from world leaders and demonstrate that the United States is committed to confronting climate change and rebuilding relationships disrupted by the Trump administration. He has also named other prominent figures in the climate movement and those who support aggressive climate policy such as Deb Haaland, Representative (D) New Mexico, California air quality regulator, Mary Nichols, or Representative Deb Haaland. Haaland would be the first-ever Native American to serve as Secretary in the Department of the Interior. Biden and his team are making climate a pillar of the transition strategy and filling the administration full of climate-ambitious people for all departments, not just environmental ones such as the EPA.
Read more about his picks here.
This isn’t an endorsement of Biden. This is an endorsement of a brighter, innovative future backed by science and climate infrastructure. This is a look at the framework and challenges ahead of us as we move forward as a nation and a global community to create an inclusive and equitable future for all people. Everyone deserves a seat at the table for these policy decisions and climate conversations because climate change affects every single person on this planet and no amount of money or power makes you immune to the consequences of inaction. These articles are written to underscore not only the challenges of the climate crisis but also the solutions and opportunities. It is truly a profound moment in history that we are watching develop in real-time. Biden is seizing this moment as an opportunity for sustainable and economic development and equity for all people. Is he going to save the world in 4 years? Probably not. But his climate policy is a major step, full of promise and innovation, and it has been said that innovation drives change.
Photo courtesy of Jon Tyson on Unsplash.