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The Biden/Harris climate plan just may buy us time to prevent the worst impacts.

6 min read

If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze — Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden’s climate plan has received rave reviews across the planet. Many have hope that the United States carrot and stick approach, domestic and foreign, could help buy us time in our battle for a livable world. It won’t be easy, but perhaps the news summaries below will ease the fear and anxiety that so many of us feel.

Nick O’Malley of the Sydney Morning Herald writes:

But the US is not only battling a pandemic and the consequential economic collapse but relentless civil strife supercharged by a poisonous election campaign.

As a result, Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s adoption of what some consider to be the most ambitious climate change action plan ever put forward by a major party of a major nation has attracted far less attention than it probably deserves.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, one of many on the party’s left who had opposed Biden on environmental grounds and who have now embraced his candidacy, described Biden’s plan as visionary.

“This is not a status quo plan,” he told The New York Times in July. “It is comprehensive. This is not some sort of, ‘Let me just throw a bone to those who care about climate change’.”


And Biden’s ambitions go beyond US borders. The plan would see him integrate climate policy into US foreign trade and national security strategies. According to policy documents, the US under a Biden presidency would lead an effort to “to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets”.

So significant is the potential for the plan that the global energy research consultancy Wood Mackenzie recently published a paper saying that a Biden loss would end any chance the US has of decarbonising its economy by 2050.

Elizabeth Kolbert writes in The NewYorker;  This year’s devastating wildfires illustrate how high the costs of failing to deal with climate change will be.

In July, Biden offered a plan for tackling climate change and promoting environmental justice. As many commentators pointed out at the time, the plan was a good deal more aggressive than the one he offered during the primary campaign, and credit for this goes to the young activists who pushed him to be bolder. (The Washington Post called it the “most ambitious blueprint released by a major party nominee.”) Several of its key elements can be accomplished by executive action. These include: directing agencies to promote clean energy through their purchases of vehicles and equipment; establishing more rigorous efficiency standards for household appliances; creating a new Environmental and Climate Justice Division in the Justice Department; and convening a climate summit of world leaders. Biden should take all these steps expeditiously. 

Much of Biden’s plan will require congressional support, and it’s here that a new Administration would have to show even more discipline and focus. The coronavirus pandemic, for all the death and destruction it has caused, will likely give the new Administration an opportunity to spend a great deal of money, in the form of another stimulus package. Biden must be clear—and adamant—about his priorities. It’s essential that funding for new infrastructure be targeted at projects that will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and that stimulus money not go to projects that will, either directly or indirectly, encourage fossil-fuel use. (According to a recent analysis by the Rhodium Group, a private research organization, only one per cent of the $2.4 trillion in U.S. stimulus spending that it evaluated has been earmarked for projects that could remotely be counted as green.) Spending should be aimed at five broad goals: decarbonizing the power sector, expanding the nation’s public-transportation systems, accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, improving building efficiency, and reducing emissions from manufacturing. And stimulus money needs to be spent not just effectively but equitably. Communities most vulnerable to climate change should see the greatest benefits, in the form of projects that create jobs or more resilient neighborhoods, or, optimally, both.

Biden’s most explicit goal is also the most difficult to attain: eliminating carbon emissions from electricity production in the U.S. by 2035. (As an analyst recently observed, this goal “teeters between achievable and aspirational.”) Currently, just seventeen per cent of the country’s electricity is generated from renewable sources—mostly wind and hydro—and another twenty per cent comes from nuclear plants. Electrifying the nation’s cars and buses will put considerable new demands on the grid, meaning that much more carbon-free power will be needed.

Bloomberg reports that Biden is likely to create a cabinet-level Climate czar. Be still my beating heart.

Democrat Joe Biden is considering creating a special White House office led by a climate “czar” to coordinate efforts to fight global warming if he is elected president, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Among the candidates being discussed to head the operation are former Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped broker the landmark Paris climate accord, and Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington who ran for the Democratic nomination on climate issues, according to the people, who asked for anonymity to discuss non-public deliberations. John Podesta, President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff, has also been mentioned.

“Climate needs to be a lens through which the next president approaches their entire domestic and economic policy, including investment, regulation and inter-agency coordination,” said Bracken Hendricks, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

Hendricks has called for an office led by the “Assistant to the President for Climate Mobilization.” Former staffers and supporters of Inslee are promoting the creation of a “White House Office of Climate Mobilization.” The Center for American Progress is recommending a “National Climate Council” akin to a National Security Council.

“An office could be very powerful with a director that is close to the president and has his blessing,” Hendricks said.

A representative of the Biden campaign declined to comment. Biden has already signaled he’s receptive to the approach, having floated the idea in April of a creating a new cabinet level position on climate that “goes far beyond the EPA.”

Such an office could be created through executive fiat and be modeled after the Office of War Mobilization created by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II to ramp up the production of war time necessities, Hendricks said.

The House of Representatives has been quite busy and will move on to climate action immediately in January 2021. 

House Democrats have released a comprehensive report showing how – if they control the White House and both the Senate and the House of Representatives – they might move forward on climate change. Their “Climate Crisis Action Plan,” released June 30 by the new House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, runs more than 500 pages and would move the U.S. toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades.

The committee, established in 2018 when Democrats regained majority control of the House, designed the report with an eye the earlier “Green New Deal” initiative and also on current-day environmental and racial justice concerns. Backers of their effort acknowledge slim chances of enactment of major climate legislation in the current Congress, where Republicans hold a majority in the Senate and where scheduling of floor action is controlled by Kentucky Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

One obstacle the articles did not address is the hostile takeover of the Supreme Court. The radical right appointed by Donald Trump will merge with the other GOP justices and kill the fight against climate change. I look forward to how Democrat control will impact the Supreme Appeals courts that threaten the very existence of every life form on earth.

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