Biden’s Climate Plan is a Step in the Right Direction


Biden’s plan is a better solution for climate change (Courtesy of Twitter).

The U.S. is one of the largest carbon emitters in modern history, so it is our responsibility to take action against climate change. In the 2020 election, both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are using climate policy as a political pawn to bolster their campaigns. Throughout his presidency, President Trump and his administration have rejected climate policy on the grounds that it hurts the economy, a trend that will continue if he is reelected. On the other hand, Joe Biden has proposed a “middle-ground” climate policy that appeals to moderate voters. 

In 2016, under the Obama administration, the U.S. joined the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement was negotiated by 196 countries with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It does not require countries to do anything, but is rather a voluntary set of goals that many countries have agreed upon. The Paris Agreement was crucial in beginning the journey to climate recovery because climate change does not care about borders or politics. It is important to have a unified group of governments to effectively reduce emissions and stop climate change. However, in 2017 President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, stating that it placed an unfair economic burden on American workers, businesses and taxpayers. During the announcement he stated, “It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country, before Paris, France,” a statement that is misleading and unproductive. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to unite countries together to fight climate change, a goal that will be productive to every country, state, city and individual in the world. 

The U.S. is the second highest carbon producer after China and the fourth highest in the world per capita. Climate Action Tracker (CAT) is an independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate action and measures it against the globally agreed Paris Agreement aim of “holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.” CAT ranks U.S. climate measures as “critically insufficient.” This is mainly due to the fact that the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement under President Trump; however, CAT states that if it had not withdrawn from the agreement, it would be ranked “insufficient.” They explain that if the U.S. were to continue as is, warming would reach between 2°C and 3°C by 2025, which is not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s limit of 1.5°C. On the other hand, the E.U. is ranked “insufficient,” but it is making climate policy a driver of economic recovery from the pandemic, which is expected to boost its rating. 

President Trump also used the pandemic as an excuse to relax environmental regulations. In the initial stimulus package proposals, Democrats proposed direct support for clean energy development, and Republicans proposed a recovery stimulus of $3 billion for the oil industry. The final stimulus package did not include either proposal. 

If President Trump is reelected in November, we will most likely see more decisions like this one being made, which could be detrimental to the planet. His main argument for rolling back climate policy is its economic impact. However, we are facing grave economic loss with his disregard for the clean energy industry, as jobs in this industry that could have been fostered in the U.S. are now being redistributed to other countries, particularly in the E.U. Additionally, we have lost the trust and confidence of other countries when it comes to climate policy, as President Trump did not consult any members of the Paris Agreement about his concerns before announcing the U.S.’s exit. This will be damaging because climate change is an international issue that must be addressed by a united body of countries, not just by individual governments. It is important for the U.S. to be involved because we are one of the highest carbon producers, but we have not shown our commitment in the past four years. Instead, we have turned this issue into a political pawn. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden is also using this issue in his presidential campaign. He has rejected the Green New Deal, a congressional plan for aggressively tackling climate change in the U.S. on a federal level. It has been criticized by Republicans and moderate Democrats alike for being expensive and a “socialist plot,” but its creators say that it will pay for itself in economic growth in the clean energy sector. Biden has also said that he does not want to stop fracking. Instead, he has proposed a new plan, which is a less aggressive version of the Green New Deal. Biden’s plan is to create more jobs in the clean energy sector and to have net-zero emissions by 2050. Generally the proposals have the same framework, but Biden’s is set on a longer timeline for a lesser cost. He has opposed the Green New Deal because of the negative connotations it has gained in the political landscape, and by proposing his new plan he is more likely to appeal to moderate Democrats and Republicans. 

Despite the fact that Biden is using climate policy as a political pawn, if he is elected and goes forward with the plan, he has the potential to turn us in the right direction. While his plan is not as aggressive as many climate activists had hoped, it will at least reorient the U.S. towards effective change, especially in the clean energy sector. 

Overall, both candidates are using climate policy to bolster their campaigns; Trump is rejecting it for the sake of the economy, and Biden is trying to find a middle ground that may or may not aid in true climate recovery. While a middle ground might not be able to save our planet, it is what we need in our political landscape right now. Biden’s plan has the potential to reinsert the U.S. into the conversation about climate recovery, which is a huge step forward from where we are at right now.

Ava Erickson, FCRH ’23, is a journalism major from Denver, Colo.