Biden's Big Climate Plans
What's in store with a new President at the helm of one the biggest polluting nations?
Despite everything I already knew about Trump, I honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing when I read that he was pulling out of the Paris Agreement. There's verbal opposition, and then there's pulling the world's second biggest emitter out of an agreement on reducing carbon emissions (as well as demolishing well on the way to 100 environmental regulations during his Presidency). It made my stomach sink and I felt that kind of despair that I get when I read about large scale oil spills, sewage dumping, or seeing actual rivers of plastic running through Asia.
Joe Biden presents the opportunity for change, but even with Trump (hopefully) out the seat, environmentalists will still have to keep applying pressure, we cannot sit back and relax now that we have restored a climate-believer to a key seat in global action. Climate action will only occur if we keep rolling this wave towards change. However, it's hugely uplifting to see Biden's plans, and although some are very ambitious, it's better to "go big or go home" as they say.
We can rest assured that this isn't a man jumping on the hype, in his political history he has supported climate action on various levels:
1986: he introduced one of the first-ever climate bills in Congress,
1998: championed the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, which allowed the USA to reach agreements with foreign governments to conserve tropical forests in exchange for debt relief,
2001/2007-09: during his time as the Senate Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, he organised hearings and gathered support for addressing climate issues,
2009: as VP under Obama's Presidency, Biden oversaw the Recovery Act which was stated the largest single investment in clean energy in U.S. history, and
The Obama-Biden Administration was responsible for rallying many of their allies to achieve the very Paris Agreement that Trump abandoned.
With lots of media covering the Biden-Harris agenda for climate there's a lot of material to read through to understand what exactly those plans are, so to make it a little more digestible, I've distilled several key sources into the headlines:
Actions for Planet:
The US will rejoin the Paris Agreement as soon as Biden gets into office,
Biden will move the country's energy away from fossil fuels towards a 100% clean energy economy,
He has planned a goal for US electricity production to be carbon-free by 2035,
The US will aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,
He will place aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations,
He will make it a requirement for public companies to disclose climate risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains,
Biden has sketched a $2 trillion budget for improving the energy efficiency of buildings,
He will look to improve and resource biofuel production to support sustainable agriculture and cleaner fuel sources,
He has set a target to conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030 in an attempt to restore and protect national biodiversity,
He has plans to improve the impacts of transport by investing in electric vehicle manufacture and providing incentives for people to choose greener vehicles, and
Biden will partner with local universities and laboratories labs for access to the latest science, data, tools and training which will enable informed action.
Actions for People:
Biden will create around a quarter of a million jobs to plug old mining, natural gas and oil sites,
He will take action on the most polluting companies that knowingly harm the environment, particularly those environments that are relied upon by vulnerable communities,
He will implement stricter energy efficiency standards for homes, appliances and various other consumables to reduce the cost of energy for the public,
He will work with farmers and the agriculture industry to protect jobs and improve sustainability,
He promises the development of climate solutions to be inclusive of marginalised groups and vulnerable communities, and
Many of the proposed climate initiatives have another major benefit: they are also creating jobs.
Joe Biden's plans could reduce global heating by 0.1 degrees Celsius and will be the most progressive climate strategy attempted by the US if he's able to pull it all off. However, this won't be an easy ride.
What are the obstacles?
If Republicans retain hold over the Senate, it will be difficult to push through legislation and new climate initiative agreements,
Fracking is widespread in the US, but 90% of it occurs on private land so will not be able to be controlled,
Fossil-fuel companies and other big parties that are set to face operational and monetary obstacles from these initiatives remain a formidable force that will continue to oppose these initiatives, and
Although many are in agreement that change needs to happen, when it actually comes to making changes like reducing meat consumption, air travel and plastic on an individual level, people's actions can often contradict their verbal climate commitments.
In summary, there are big plans laid out that dramatically change the prospect of our global climate action, but we cannot lift our pressure and we cannot stop doing our individual bit, no matter how big or small that may be.