Why Biden-Sanders progressive climate blueprint has the Internet hailing partnership as a 'huge step forward'
In what can be termed a revolutionary move, former opponents, Senator Bernie Sanders, and current Democratic presidential nominee for the 2020 US elections, Joe Biden, have come together to present in the country's most ambitious climate plan yet. Featuring authors such as former Secretary of State John Kerry, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kathy Castor and Conor Lamb, and more, the task force's plans laid out could get the country back on board as the world fights rising emissions. Sanders and Biden formed the task force shortly after the progressive senator endorsed Biden, despite their disagreements on a number of key issues including Medicare for All.
"The goals of the task force were to move the Biden campaign into as progressive a direction as possible, and I think we did that," Sanders told NPR. "On issue after issue, whether it was education, the economy, health care, climate, immigration, criminal justice, I think there was significant movement on the part of the Biden campaign." "When I talked to Joe a while back, he said that he wants to be the most progressive president since FDR," Sanders said. "Do I believe that Biden believes that now is the time for bold action to protect the working class and lower-income people in this country? Yes, I do believe that's the case."
Many experts agree that by 2030, the world has to cut much of its emissions if the fight to restrict the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius must succeed. President Donald Trump's administration has rolled back many Obama-era environmental protections and has even withdrawn the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement, a move highly decried by the international community.
The Biden-Sanders task force not only plans for the country to reenter the Paris Agreement, but also to make many measurable changes. Significantly, the plan addresses environmental justice -- the move to ensure the fight against climate change is equally beneficial for all communities.
What are the planned recommendations?
The Biden-Sanders plan states that the country -- and the world -- must "achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050." To that end, the plan states that the Democrats are committed to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency. The plan also states the potential administration's intent to expand solar and wind energy development and aims to install 500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems, and 60,000 American-made wind turbines.
The plan also states the intent to build a "modern electric grid by investing in interstate transmission projects and advanced, 21st- century grid technologies to power communities with clean electricity, including federal support to build sustainable and resilient energy grids in rural America and in tribal areas lacking energy infrastructure." Moreover, the potential administration plans to lower household energy bills by making energy-saving upgrades to up to two million low-income households and affordable and public housing units within five years.
The task force also aims to create a 100 percent clean building sector by incentivizing billions of dollars in private-sector investment to retrofit four million buildings which will help local governments save money and cut pollution by weatherizing and upgrading energy systems in hospitals, schools, public housing, and municipal buildings. Further, the plan also states the transition of the nation's entire fleet of 500,000 school buses to American-made, zero-emission alternatives within five years. The public sector will also see the transitioning of 3 million vehicles in the federal, state, and local fleets to zero-emission vehicles. Moreover, the task force plans to install at least 500,000 public charging stations across the country.
The plan also addresses emissions in the agriculture sector, which accounts for a large portion of carbon emissions. According to the plan, Democrats will partner with farmers to make the American agriculture sector the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions while opening up new sources of income for farmers in the process. The plan also states the country's intent to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and move expeditiously to phase out super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons in the United States.
Why the plan matters
Climate activists often lament that most moves initiated to fight climate change don't consider the low-income communities -- that are usually communities of color -- that are most affected by the devastating effects brought on by anthropogenic climate change. However, the Biden-Sanders task force mentions environmental justice multiple times and even acknowledges that the administration needs to reach out to these communities. Crucially, the document states that the Democrats must embed environmental justice and climate justice at the heart of their policy and governing agenda.
For instance, the very first page of the plan states, "Communities of color, low-income families, and indigenous communities have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm from air pollution, water pollution, and toxic sites." The plan also goes on to state, "The clean energy economy must represent the diversity of America. We will invest in the education and training of underrepresented groups, including people of color, low-income Americans, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and unemployed energy workers for jobs in clean energy-related industries." Often, people of color are not employed equally in the clean sector.
In the opening pages themselves, the plan states, "In doing so, we will prioritize disproportionately exposed, frontline and vulnerable communities and rectify the inequities and inefficiencies of disaster response, including transparent and timely reporting and oversight."
The section that expands on the environmental justice initiatives states that the potential administration plans to hold polluters accountable by directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Justice Department to "pursue cases to the fullest extent permitted by law." Additionally, it states an environmental justice fund would be created to "provide a historic investment across federal agencies to eliminate legacy pollution which disproportionately causes illness and death in rural and urban communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities."
Many experts have already recommended that a "green recovery" must be pursued in the aftermath of the recession during the Covid-19 pandemic. It seems like the Democrats agree. The plan states the intent to mobilize public and private investments "to launch a clean energy revolution," and use federal resources to accelerate the development of a clean energy economy.
How are Americans reacting?
For the most part, left-wing Americans and climate activists have hailed the plan put forward by the Biden-Sanders task force. Meteorologist and climate activist Eric Holthaus tweeted, "Simply put: The Biden climate plan was the most ambitious climate plan of any US presidential nominee in history, and it just got a *lot* better." A user opined, "The climate policy piece is truly progressive and a huge step forward (and so are the recommendations of the other task forces). But what I'm mostly glad is how well Biden/Sanders' camps [learned] from 2016 and are putting up a unified front going into peak campaign season."
Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington, tweeted, "Thank you to the Biden-Sanders task force for putting together a shared path forward on how to defeat the climate crisis and create millions of jobs in an economy run on clean energy. Let’s unite to defeat this president and build our clean energy future." One user wrote, "Biden-Sanders committee climate agreement looks promising. a lot of serious work has gone into it, looks like pressure is having an effect." Another shared, "You love to see the Biden/Sanders teams coming together behind meaningful policies on climate, healthcare & more."