Many issues are at stake in the upcoming election. The fate of the climate crisis is on the ballot this cycle, with two candidates whose viewpoints on the issue contrast dramatically. President Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, has no plan and simply denies climate change’s existence. His agenda has, and will continue to be, driven by fossil fuel interests. Eighty-five percent of oil and gas donations have gone to President Donald Trump’s campaign or to Republican candidates and conservative causes this election year ( U.S government scientists released the most recent National Climate Assessment, which detailed the scientific consensus on climate change and examined the denial of the government to address the threat. President Trump refused to acknowledge the study’s findings, despite it being based on thousands of other reputable studies, and being backed by 13 federal agencies. This is just one example of the blindspots that the current administration holds in the face of the climate crisis. Duncan Goddard (12), an AP Government student, says, “I hate to just boost one candidate on the failing of the other, but any response to the climate crisis will be better than Trump’s.” 

Conversely, the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, has taken a much different stance on the issue. “This is one of the areas that Biden has been shockingly progressive about,” remarked Goddard, a major reason why he has chosen to support the Democratic nominee. 

This “radical-ness” of his plan is due, in part, to how Biden chose to develop his policies on climate. The Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force was a committee that consulted with the more progressive factions of the Democratic party and worked with activist groups like the Sunrise Movement, which has spearheaded the push for a Green New Deal. 

It is important to note that Biden does not support the Green New Deal, which he made clear in the first presidential debate. While his campaign website says, “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face,” he puts his support into the two trillion dollar “Biden Plan.” “Joe Biden’s climate plan isn’t everything, but it isn’t nothing at all,” said Varshini Prakash, the founder of Sunrise Movement, in an interview with CBS. The Biden Plan takes aspects from the Green New Deal, and scales them back to narrowly focus on parts of society. The Green New Deal is a movement of policies, and while Biden tackles many of the same issues, he’s chosen to focus on infrastructure and jobs. In essence, the plan is to link the economic recovery from the pandemic to addressing the climate crisis, cut emissions to zero by 2050 and do all of that sustainably.

There are five major parts to the Biden Plan, summarized below:

  1. Biden will lead the US into a 100% green economy, meaning that economic reliance on fossil fuels in the United States will cease to exist by 2050. Instead, the country will function on green energy, such as solar, hydro and wind leading the green energy sector. Additionally, he will pressure Congress to:  

a. establish an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025, 

b. make historic investments in clean energy and climate research and innovation, 

c. incentivize the rapid deployment of new clean energy initiatives across the economy, targeting communities most impacted by climate change.

  1. Biden will prioritize resilience in infrastructure and from day one, make smart investments to ensure that buildings, water and transportation will be able to withstand the current and future impacts of a changing climate. He wants to use federal power to develop region specific climate plans, partnering with local scientists so the most accurate and relevant data and tools are available.  
  2. He will try to restore the United States’ reputation as a leader against climate change on the world stage. This would be done first by rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, and then, using “America’s economic leverage and power of example,” pressuring other countries into refining their domestic climate targets. In terms of foreign policy, he hopes to prioritize the climate crisis in America’s relations with other countries, national security and the country’s approach to international trade. 
  3. Biden will hold big polluters and the fossil fuel industry accountable, especially when it comes to the abuse that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and historically marginalized communities. He’ll make sure that there is widespread access to clean, safe drinking water and that the development of solutions to problems communities have faced is an equitable, community centered process. 
  4. Finally, Biden promises that with this transition to a green economy, no worker will be left behind. Those who have sacrificed their families, health and happiness to help the nation’s economy grow, will have a place in it, even after traditional economic measures have been replaced. 

If Biden is able to fulfill his plan if elected, Prakash says that it would represent a “seismic shift in climate policy at the federal level.” Goddard agrees, “If Biden is able to follow through with his plan, it will represent the strongest use of executive power since FDR, and just hopefully, just as it was done back then, his actions will propel us into a new, green era, where the threat of climate change has been subdued.”

Illustration by Liv Lufkin
Biden and Trump have very different stances on how the climate crisis should be addressed. This was seen clearly in the first presidential debate which was held on September 29, 2020. 
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