Biden’s Climate Mandate, The Green New Deal, & Why Nothing Seems To Work

“Climate change is the existential threat to humanity.” Biden said in the second presidential debate. 

Progressive politics have casted a dark cloud over climate change and its threatening relationship with the United States and the rest of the world. Despite this, center left and liberal officials’ efforts prove to be nothing if not superficial. The Biden campaign site outlines his plan for tackling the climate crisis and establishing environmental justice. Biden’s plan for climate change is essentially Biden’s Green New Deal. And while Biden has separated himself from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey’s congressional Green New Deal, his plan provides that the Green New Deal is the “crucial framework” for his plan. Additionally, when such rhetoric about climate policy commences it is essential to understand their limitations.

Biden’s history with climate change

Biden shares a unique relationship with climate change as compared to other members of his party. Biden introduced the “Global Climate Protection Act” in 1987. A summary of it reads “Directs the President to establish a Task Force on the Global Climate to research, develop, and implement a coordinated national strategy on global climate. Requires such Task Force to transmit a United States Strategy on the Global Climate to the President within a year. Requires the President to then report to specified Members of Congress on such report.” While others have brought the issue to the House and Senate (like environmentalist and former VP Al Gore), pundits cite Biden as the first to introduce a congressional climate bill as it overhauled perceptions of global warming. The bill ultimately failed but found its home in a State Department amendment. 

During the Obama-Biden administration, in response to the 2008 financial crisis their administration passed the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” Though its main provision was to stimulate the depressed economy, embedded within it was a 90 billion investment in clean energy. 

Biden’s plan outline 4 major points:

01


Ensure the U.S. archives a 100% clean energy economy and net zero emissions no later than 2050.

02


Build a stronger, more resilient nation.

03


Rally the rest of the world to address the grave climate threat.

04


Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.

Important points

  • Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
  • Recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on Climate 
  • Investing in clean and efficient infrastructure
  • Establish the ARPA-C, a new, cross-agency Advanced Research Projects Agency focused on climate.
  • Expanding and improving the rail system & investing in electric vehicles 
  • Demand a ban on fossil fuel subsidies 
    • Stop China from subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing carbon pollution  
  • Commission a National Intelligence Estimate on national and economic security impacts from climate change, including water scarcity, increased risks of conflict, impacts on state fragility, and the security implications of resulting large-scale migrations.
  • Increase energy jobs and support coal workers and their families/dependents in the transition to clean energy
  • Focus on low-carbon manufacturing
  • Fully integrate climate change into our foreign policy and national security strategies, as well as our approach to trade
  • Ensure safe and clean water for all Americans
  • Ensure that communities harmed by climate change and pollution are the first to benefit from the Clean Economy Revolution.

Biden’s Plan vs Green New Deal

The 2019 Green New Deal resolution frames climate policy in a manner that is more aggressive and immediate. Now, the question to ask is: what ramifications does this pose and how does it inform America’s ability to effectively push through policy and tackle climate change?

Biden:

  • Executive powers
    • Executive orders 
    • Seek a G20 commitment
    • Build on past G7
  • 2050/ 30 year timeline
  • Public companies must disclose climate risks
  • Implementing affordable housing near public transit to cut down on commute emissions 
  • Creation of ARPA-C with a focus on climate research
  • Protecting America’s natural treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • Invest in the climate resilience of our military bases and critical security infrastructure across the U.S. and around the world, to deal with the risk of climate change effects, including extreme weather events that caused over $8 billion in damages to Department of Defense bases in just the last year.
  • Price tag: 2 Trillion 

Green New Deal:

  • Congressional framework (does not reference things like Executive actions)
  • 10 year timeline 
  • More of a focus on intersectionality
    • Food availability 
    • More of a focus on the indigenous community 
    • Healthcare for all 
  • Price tag: 10-100 trillion

Similarities: 

  • Focus on vulnerable communities 
  • Focus on job market and energy transition 
  • Focus on transportation rail
  • The intersection of foreign policy and climate
  • 100% clean energy & net zero emission 
  • Open door to Nuclear energy
  • Establishing power grids

The main difference between Biden’s climate plan and the Green New Deal is that Biden’s plan is comprehensive. Biden’s plans spells out specifics and the Green New Deal is a non-binding policy framework for Congress to start addressing the climate crisis. In this way Biden’s plan is a fixed agenda and the Green New Deal is precursor to the former. Biden, unlike the House members who introduced and sponsored the Green New Deal, holds executive powers. In his first 100 days, Biden plans to sign a series of executive orders which drastically changes dynamics. Yes, Congress can go through hoops to veto executive orders but the power that Biden will leverage will largely allow for quick policy implementation. Biden also has the ability to rejoin the U.S. in the Paris Agreement, something that President Trump pulled us out of early in his term. Biden’s Plan also calls upon a 30 year timeframe while the Green New Deal focuses on a 10 year plan, which brings up considerations about the claims that in 10 years without effective action, the world will face irreversible climate effects. Additionally, the Green New Deal focuses more on the intersectionality of climate change. While Biden’s plan makes mention of the indigenous community, the Green New Deal places more of a focus on their rights and their land. The Green New Deal also places emphasis on wide scale access to clean and healthy food, healthcare for all, and affordable housing for all. Considering this, the price disparity amongst the two plans is more explanatory. One of the major similarities between the two plans is that it focuses on addressing climate change on what some would call an “epic scale.” This is something that many climate scientists have cited as extremely prudent. 

Will We See Biden’s Plan Come to Life

Campaign promises are as political as it gets. With just words to keeping these plans alive, we find ourselves going back to the fundamental properties of politics—a hierarchical society based on the leveraging of power and resources. So long as someone is in office and so long as they push rhetoric of intent, intent means nothing until it comes to fruition. That was largely notional and does not consider the nuances of the legislative & executive branch, but it’s true. There’s no way to truly know if we’ll get a Biden climate plan until it is signed into law, but let’s talk feasibility. Despite the Georgia runoff that is going to happen, it is very possible that we are looking at a Republican controlled Senate. And while Senate Republicans are not homogeneous, they’ve created a tone that suggests that climate change is exaggerated, that it is not worth the funding, and sometimes that it just is not real. They have essentially marginalized the climate crisis. For what it is worth of the more modern presidents, Biden has the most and meaningful congressional experience.  Biden bids on rallying bipartisanship. We saw this with his time in Congress, we largely saw it under the Obama administration as he helped to get the Affordable Care Act and Relief bills passed, and we are likely to see it now. And though their politics differ greater, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a strong relationship with Joe Biden, again owing to Biden’s negotiations during the Obama administration. Will it be difficult for Biden to get a Republican controlled Senate to vote in favor of his agenda? Yes, incredibly so. Is he well suited for the obstacles? A little bit, yes.

Does any of this matter?

That is up to you to think about at night. Biden’s plan and the Green New Deal, while they may seem like the peak of socialism to your grandparents, offer as much as a band aid can to a gun shot wound. These “progressive” plans surround themselves around reform, an aesthetically pleasing plan that masquerades as the one true answer. It reinforces the problem instead of obliterating it. Capitalistic intentions linger in the underpinnings of the proposed expansion of renewable energy and job creation. The increase in capital, the desire to maximize profit, and the predictable spike in consumerism breeds a cesspool for a new age of capitalism. This will not curb exploitation, ensure sustainability, or change the face of production. So while Big Oil may face added “regulations,” these steps barely inch us closer to the finish line. This barely touches the surface and encases all of the nuances of eco-socialism and the prospect of a green future but it starts the conversation.

If anything I hope this forces you to consider the strength or weakness when it comes to the “fight against climate change.” While something may present itself as palatable and although politicians with personality like Senator Sanders & Representative Ocasio-Cortez may elicit passion, their word is not gospel. They work for us but they also work for an institution that constantly lets us down. The buck stops with us. Stay informed.

Resources:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10455750500108237?journalCode=rcns20

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