• Liza Martin

A Progressive Pitch from Biden-Harris: Revamp the Climate Agenda

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

Image: Biden for President

Released in July, Joe Biden’s new climate proposal is by far the most aggressive and comprehensive plan for climate action we’ve seen from a presidential nominee. The plan uses the Green New Deal as a framework, relying on the notion that environmental and economic policy can and should be heavily interlinked. It focuses not only on promptly switching to clean energy, but also protecting low-income and vulnerable populations from the disastrous burdens that they shoulder as a result of climate change.

The new proposal, deemed a “Clean Energy Revolution,” functions to shift Biden’s platform to the left and excite progressive voters who were disappointed by the outcome of the primary. While many of Biden’s positions, including his original climate plan, may have seemed paltry to those who rallied behind Senators Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, it is clear that climate is one area where the now-nominee is willing to embrace a far-left stance in hopes of gaining more broad-based support from the Democratic party.

Biden’s original climate agenda did not outline a specific timeline for cutting emissions. However, the new proposal adopts Sanders’ call for net zero emissions by 2050 (3). The $2 Trillion proposal also promises to:

  • Achieve a carbon-free power sector by 2035.

  • Help leverage natural climate solutions by preserving 30% of America’s waters and lands by 2030.

  • Establish the ARPA-C, a new Advanced Research Projects Agency focused on climate.

  • Engage with state and local governments and communities stakeholders to develop clean and accessible public transit solutions.

  • Ensure safe access to drinking water for all communities.

  • Direct the EPA and Justice Department to pursue criminal and anti-pollution cases to the fullest extent possible.

  • Develop a low-carbon manufacturing sector in every state, creating reliable jobs for Americans.

The plan notes that 40% of all clean energy spending would be allocated towards disadvantaged communities, distinguishing justice and equality as intrinsic to Biden’s environmental agenda.

Biden’s recent vice-presidential pick also suggests a deliberate prioritization of environmental and environmental justice issues and a striking shift to the left regarding these issues. An original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, Kamala Harris has been a champion of environmental justice in the Senate. Harris’s actions on climate have largely been foused on the needs of communities of color. The Climate Equity Act, introduced by Harris and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, proposes the establishment of an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, in which the federal government rates environmental legislation on the effect it has on low-income communities (4).

The Biden-Harris climate proposal, officially called “The Biden Plan to Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economic Opportunity in a Clean Energy Future,” is a far cry from the perfunctory “rejoin the Paris Agreement” politics surrounding climate that we saw earlier this election cycle. The plan recognizes economic and racial inequality as an inextricable component of the climate crisis and emphasizes specific actions at both the local and national level as opposed to focusing on climate diplomacy, which has historically come up short.

A transformative approach to the economic and ecological catastrophe that is the climate crisis, the Biden-Harris proposal is a promising attempt to unify the Democratic party and redefine the future of climate action through an equity lens.


  1. https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/

  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/climate/green-new-deal-questions-answers.html

  3. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/03/04/905507/joe-biden-bernie-sanders-climate-plan-comparison-democratic-primaries/

  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/12/climate/kamala-harris-environmental-justice.html

  5. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/03/democrats-try-to-resurrect-the-paris-agreement/585982/

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