Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Biden’s plan would create millions of new jobs by increasing the use of clean energy in the transportation, electricity, housing, and building sectors, while also ensuring environmental justice and addressing climate change. 

Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled an ambitious $2 trillion, four-year plan to fight climate change, reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2035, and rebuild the American economy.

The proposal, which represents the second plank of Biden’s new “Build Back Better” economic agenda, includes efforts to create millions of new jobs by dramatically increasing the use of clean energy in the transportation, electricity, housing, and building sectors, while also ensuring environmental justice and addressing climate change. 

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, shared his proposal during a speech near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he acknowledged the economy was in crisis. But, he noted, the crisis offered an “an incredible opportunity, not just to build back to where we were before, but better, stronger, more resilient and more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”

“These are the most critical investments we can make for the long-term health and vitality of both the American economy and the physical health and safety of the American people,” Biden said. 

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Biden paired his proposal with an explicit critique of Trump’s failure to address climate change. “When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is ‘hoax.’ When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs.’” Biden said Trump and Republicans have embraced “backward-looking policies that will harm the environment” and “make communities less healthy.”

Biden’s new effort represents a significantly more ambitious proposal than he released during the Democratic primary, when he proposed spending $1.7 trillion over 10 years. His new proposal borrows heavily from one of his former primary opponents, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a key leader in the fight against climate change who called Biden’s effort “visionary.”

“This is not a status quo plan,” Inslee told the New York Times. “It is comprehensive. This is not some sort of, ‘Let me just throw a bone to those who care about climate change.’” 

Here’s just some of what Biden wants to do:

  • Generate 100% carbon-free power by 2035, in order to combat the “existential threat” of climate change;
  • Create millions of jobs rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, including fixing roads and bridges, achieving universal broadband, and guaranteeing access to clean air and water, and doing so in a way that addresses existing racial and class disparities; 
  • Create 1 million good, new jobs in the auto industry, with a particular focus on investing in and incentivizing the production of clean energy-powered vehicles;
  • Provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options by 2030;
  • Upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes in four years, an effort that would create at least 1 million jobs, reduce utility bills for families, businesses, and local governments, and improve environmental health, making buildings safer.
  • Construct 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units;
  • Upgrade the infrastructure of the nation’s public schools, with resources weighted to lower-income rural and urban schools where the poor quality of school buildings can pose barriers to equal educational opportunity;
  • Create new jobs in conservation and climate-smart agriculture, including 250,000 jobs plugging abandoned oil and natural gas wells and reclaiming abandoned coal, hardrock, and uranium mines.

Biden’s proposal also states that all of the jobs created by these investments would be “good, union jobs that expand the middle class” and would be filled by “diverse, local, well-trained workers – including women and people of color.” 

To ensure environmental justice and equitable investments across racial and geographic lines, the plan would require that 40% of all money spent on clean energy deployment, reduction of pollution, and other investments go to historically disadvantaged communities. The effort would also include legislation making it easier for workers to organize a union and negotiate to increase wages and secure better benefits. 

The plan was praised by environmental activist groups, including leaders of the progressive Sunrise Movement, and Senate Democrats. 

“Vice President Biden’s bold clean energy and infrastructure plan is a breath of fresh air for America’s future,” added Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Taking necessary action to confront the climate crisis will be a top priority for Democrats in Congress next year.”

While Biden’s plan doesn’t ban fracking, a controversial method of extracting oil and gas, it does call for an easing out of fossil fuels through investments in and a growing reliance on more efficient vehicles, public transport, buildings, and power plants. The effort would not establish a total ban on fossil fuels, but rather invest in carbon capture technologies to catch coal and petroleum pollution from power plant smokestacks. 

The former vice president’s plan doesn’t include specifics on how it would be paid for, but senior campaign officials told the Associated Press that it would be funded by a mix of tax increases on corporations and the wealthy and deficit spending aimed at stimulating the economy. Some of the plan’s measures could be achieved by executive action, they said, while others would require legislation and a Democratic Senate majority. Republicans currently hold a 53-47 edge, but recent polls show Democrats have a legitimate shot to pick up as many as a half-dozen seats and flip control of the chamber.

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Biden’s latest proposal comes a week after he unveiled a $700 billion plan to increase spending on American products and investments in technological research and development, a proposal that he said would create as many as five million new jobs in the United States.

The scope of Biden’s proposals reflect the nature of the economic crisis facing the U.S. More than 20 million Americans are out of work, a number that could rise as COVID-19 cases surge and cause states like California, Texas, and Florida to once again shut down businesses and re-institute restrictions. They also underscore a growing recognition that once COVID-19 has been defeated, rebuilding the economy and tackling climate change will be among the next major tasks for humanity.

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Climate change, Biden said, “is the existential threat to humanity, and it is real. It is real. And it is urgent, and the public is becoming aware of it. And it may be the very answer to get us out of this economic situation we’re in.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.