Joe Biden’s embrace of the Green New Deal is the best news of the week

Barack Obama / Flickr Joe Biden in Blacksburg August 15th...
Barack Obama / Flickr

Former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden has issued a 22-page plan to address the climate crisis. As part of that plan, Biden’s website states that he “believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected.”

This is seriously good news, and not just because of Biden. Here’s why this is critical news in addressing our global climate crisis: Kamala Harris is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. Bernie Sanders is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. Elizabeth Warren is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. Cory Booker is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. Kirsten Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. Amy Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. Eric Swalwell is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. Of the remaining candidates, both Jay Inslee and Beto O’Rourke have issued their own extensive plans for dealing with the climate crisis. And now Joe Biden has signed on to the Green New Deal.

That makes the odds very, very, very good that, no matter who the ultimate Democratic candidate turns out to be, she or he is going to be supporting an extensive plan that recognizes both the seriousness of the climate crisis and the breadth of the required solution. That’s not just good. That’s huge.

It also means that even Biden, by far the most moderate of the major candidates for the Democratic nomination and someone whose statements in other areas have occasionally caused progressives to cringe, has committed himself to a climate package that is ambitious enough to have a serious impact in affecting the scale of the crisis we face.

In 2016, not a single question about the climate crisis was asked at any presidential debate. And since then, Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris agreement, destroyed the Clean Power Plan, rolled back fuel economy standards, and deregulated much of the fossil fuel industry. He’s been pouring gasoline onto the fire that is burning California, melting Alaska, and driving severe weather across the nation. It has to stop—and it looks very much like it will.

In a CNN poll of issues taken last month, Democratic voters named the climate crisis as their most important issue. That’s an astounding change from the normal order of priorities, one that finally recognizes the genuine threat posed by this issue. The importance both voters and candidates are placing on this issue is setting the climate crisis up to be a huge issue in the coming campaign.

Some of those criticizing the Green New Deal have believed it required reaching 0% net emissions within ten years, but that’s a misreading of the plan. Biden’s take requires that the U.S. reach net-zero before 2050. It also requires that the framework be fleshed out into detailed legislation, including enforcement mechanisms, by 2025. Biden would also add funding to increase incentives for clean-energy development.

Biden also calls for implementing one of the key elements of the Green New Deal: providing immediate assistance both to communities being affected by the changing climate and to communities that are most affected by efforts to move away from fossil fuels. The Green New Deal recognizes that at both ends of this issue are communities that are trapped, either by inexpensive housing that’s not ready for floods and storms, or by jobs that are tied to fossil fuels, with no apparent way out. The plan promises to assist those communities and to go directly after the “fossil fuel companies and other polluters who put profit over people and knowingly harm our environment and poison our communities’ air, land, and water, or conceal information regarding potential environmental and health risks.”

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