There has been a lot of talk recently about how presidential candidate Joe Biden, if elected, plans to address climate change. Especially because he has been vocal about not supporting the Green New Deal (GND). Although he does not support it, he said it is a crucial “framework” for addressing climate change. Instead, Biden supports his own plan, “The Biden Plan;” but what is it, and how does it compare to the GDN?
First, we must take a look at the Green New Deal. It is a non-binding resolution proposed on February 7, 2019 by Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and Ed Markey, a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts. It addresses a wide scope of issues from climate change to climate inequity and injustice. According to the Green Party U.S.’ website, “ [The GND] seeks to solve the climate crisis by combining quick action to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% renewable energy by 2030 along with an ‘Economic Bill of Rights’ – the right to single-payer healthcare, a guaranteed job at a living wage, affordable housing and free college education.” The Green New Deal is a more broad list of goals addressing climate change, and does not explicitly mention the actions the federal government would need to take in order to reach such goals. In March 2019, the Senate voted to debate this resolution, with 57 senators voting against it and 43 Democrats and independents who caucus with them, voting “present”, which meant they were neither for, nor against it. Because the GND did not pass this vote, it did not advance any further in the Senate. Since then, there has not been any major or actionable legislation regarding climate change presented in the Senate or Congress– but, “The Biden Plan” stands to change that.
Presidential Candidate Joe Biden’s plan addresses many of the same issues as the GND, such as clean energy, carbon neutrality, job creation and infrastructure, in a more detailed and actionable way. He consulted and worked closely with Bernie Sanders, climate activists, and labor unions to write it. According to The Washington Post, “[Biden] wants Congress to pass legislation mandating emissions cuts from electric utilities and offering generous checks to those buying electric vehicles.” He hopes to completely eliminate carbon pollution from the nation’s power sector by 2035 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Compared to the $10 trillion the GND is estimated to cost over the projected 10 years, Biden’s campaign estimates his plan will cost $2 trillion over the course of the next four years, in which he hopes to reach its goals. His plan would be paid for in part by roll backs on Trump’s tax cuts on the wealthy and major corporations.
One of the biggest concerns expressed over Biden’s plan is that it does not include a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It is the method used to extract natural gasses and petroleum, in which high pressure fluid is injected into underground rock formations and brought to the surface for collection. It is extremely expensive and has been linked to erosion, earthquakes and pollution of drinking water. During the vice presidential debate, sitting VP Mike Pence criticized Biden and VP candidate Kamala Harris, who was one of the original cosponsors of the GND, for not banning fracking in Biden’s plan. However, even in the GND, there was no mention made of banning or addressing fracking.
Biden’s plan, much like the GND, aims to amend environmental injustice and racism. “Biden wants to spend some 40 percent of the money earmarked for clean energy in historically disadvantaged areas,” writes The Washington Post. By investing more money in these communities, Biden hopes to remedy the issues they face, such as lack of access to clean drinking water and pollution. Additionally, this would help his goal of creating more jobs in renewable energy, as people in these communities often work in electrical and transportation industries, which contribute the most to CO2 emissions and pollution in the U.S.
While both plans are very ambitious, they are critical at this stage of climate change and the effects we are seeing now due to the decades of climate inaction. The U.S. is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and something needs to be done. The GND was shot down by the Senate, but if Biden wins the election, his plan will help us to begin addressing climate change in an appropriate and urgent way. And if we win the majority in the Senate, the GND could make a comeback and aid Biden’s efforts to combat climate change, reach zero-net carbon emissions by 2050 and reinvigorate our economy.