On July 14th, Joe Biden unveiled a new climate plan that’s winning praise from backers of the Green New Deal. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee raised his climate spending goals from $1.7 trillion over a decade to $2 trillion in just his first term. Biden also moved his timetable forward by 15 years for the utility sector to go carbon-free – from 2050 to 2035. While these changes turn Biden’s climate plan a deeper shade of green, it looks more like a red, white and blue package for voters in this pivotal election year. Here’s why:
It’s all about jobs: Just in time for the presidential election, the coronavirus ended the longest period of job growth in U.S. history and sidelined a quarter of the nation’s clean energy jobs. Before the pandemic hit, clean energy jobs were leading a hot jobs market – growing 10% a year, and 70% faster than the national average, during the Trump presidency. Today, there are three times more jobs in clean energy than in the U.S. fossil fuels industry, and more jobs than in teaching, farming, banking or real estate. Biden’s climate plan calls for adding another million clean energy jobs to help jump-start the economy, bringing the nation’s clean-jobs total to nearly 4.5 million. Millions more jobs would be leveraged in the auto, housing and construction trades in support of Biden’s carbon-cutting goals.
It’s all about scale: Biden’s climate plan is now his most ambitious spending proposal. He’s earmarked more for climate-related initiatives than for education, housing and opioid treatment programs combined. In his first term, Biden is calling for the installation of 500 million solar panels and 60,000 wind turbines, production of millions of electric vehicles and 500,000 new EV charging stations, and upgrading 4 million buildings and weatherizing 2 million homes to save on energy bills. Forty percent of Biden’s green spending initiatives are aimed at benefiting economically disadvantaged communities.
It’s all about scope: Biden’s climate plan is not just about investing in more solar arrays, EVs and battery storage. Green jobs cut a wide swath across American industry in all 50 states. They include manufacturing energy-efficient appliances and installing HVAC systems, building out 5G networks for telecommuting and autonomous vehicles, providing GPS and remote sensing for precision agriculture, and forging new paths for micro-mobility (think bikes, scooters and light-rail networks).
Most of all, it’s about time! America is in a dark place right now, confronting ghosts from its past (systemic racism), present (coronavirus) and future (climate change). All of these issues are converging on the 2020 presidential election, now less than four months away. In a country gripped by a fierce political divide, a jobs-creating climate plan might just be the galvanizing force that starts to heal the rift. Nearly 70% of Americans in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll say they want the government to take “aggressive” action on climate change. This includes a majority of Republicans! Such bipartisan support could make fighting climate change a truly red, white and blue issue for voters this fall, no matter what shade of green Biden’s climate plan turns out to be.
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