Early on in the presidential primary, Joe Biden seemed to be solidly middle-of-the-road on almost every issue. That was certainly true of the environment. In a race where Gov. Jay Inslee had made climate change his central issue, and where Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were both pushing comprehensive environmental plans related to the Green New Deal, Biden’s early positions seemed somewhat reserved.
But the speech that Joe Biden delivered on Tuesday showed that he has fully absorbed the need for a dramatic change that would reshape both America’s energy policy and the economy. In a 20-minute address that also took time to punch Donald Trump for his failures to listen to experts in dealing with COVID-19, Biden presented the outlines of a policy that’s genuinely bold, and a view of how the economy and environment are related that was aimed squarely at ending the false dichotomy between good jobs and a clean future.
Those watching only to hear the magic number might have been disappointed that Biden’s plan only promised to put the U.S. on a road to fully renewable energy by 2050. However, Biden laid out a lot of landmarks along that road, declaring that the U.S. would not just rejoin the Paris Agreement, but be a leader in the next round of talks. In the language that he used, Biden touched on familiar themes from the Green New Deal and made it clear that he was done with tentative approaches. In the midst of one crisis, Biden was still willing to present climate change as a truly existential crisis that must be forcefully addressed.
Biden focused on not just replacing Donald Trump’s executive orders with his own, but on building a plan into law, and into the fabric of the country, so that it would create “irreversible” progress. Best of all, Biden did an excellent job of making his speech about the opportunities it will create to move people from dying industries into the jobs of the future.
Amazingly, Biden’s speech was carried live on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox.