Wednesday February 19, 2020

Joe Biden Pitches Climate Proposal, Aims Net Zero Emission of Carbon Pollution by 2050

Biden also envisions expanding the nation's railways, theoretically reducing demand for car and airline travel

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Climate proposal
Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden looks at an array of solar panels during a tour at the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in Plymouth, N.H., June 4, 2019. VOA

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is pitching a $5 trillion-plus climate proposal that he says would lead the U.S. to net zero emission of carbon pollution by 2050.

The former vice president calls for $1.7 trillion in federal spending over 10 years, with the rest of the investments coming from the private sector. Biden proposes covering the taxpayer costs by repealing the corporate tax cuts that President Donald Trump signed in 2017, while eliminating existing subsidies to the fossil fuel companies.

Biden’s plan — a mix of tax incentives, federal spending, new regulation and more aggressive foreign policy on climate issues — comes as he pushes back on rivals’ assertions that his environmental agenda isn’t bold enough. Climate activists largely praised his pitch Tuesday, although some said the Democrats’ 2020 front-runner still hasn’t gone far enough to challenge the fossil fuel industry.

His proposal calls the Green New Deal pushed by some Democrats on Capitol Hill “a crucial outline” but stops short of some of its timelines for weaning the U.S. economy off power from fossil fuels, even as he promises a “clean energy revolution” nationwide and internationally.

climate proposal
Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, center, is applauded as he speaks during a tour at the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in Plymouth, N.H., June 4, 2019. VOA

“I will lead America and the world, not only to confront the crisis in front us but to seize the opportunity it presents,” Biden says in a campaign video posted online, warning that failure to act threatens “the livability of our planet” and will accelerate natural disasters that are “already happening.”

Biden also joined many of his Democratic primary opponents in pledging not to accept campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry and promising to keep the U.S. in the United Nations climate agreement signed in 2015 while he was vice president under President Barack Obama. Trump, who calls climate science a “hoax,” has pledged to withdraw from that accord.

Reaction to plan

But the release of Biden’s plan was not without controversy. The campaign was forced to amend the proposal because a handful of passages did not credit some of its sources. The Biden campaign said “several citations” had been “inadvertently left out.”

Biden’s plan is similar in size and scope to what former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has proposed. Its total price tag falls short of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s pitch for $3 trillion in federal spending over a decade and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s $2 trillion green manufacturing plan, also unveiled Tuesday.

Inslee took advantage of the contrasts, saying at a Michigan campaign stop that Biden’s “proposals really lack teeth and they lack ambition that is necessary to defeat the climate crisis.” He added, “We don’t have 30 years to get this job done. We’ve got to start acting now.”

climate proposal
FILE – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a rally at the beginning of the March For Science in Seattle, Washington, April 22, 2017. VOA

League of Conservation Voters lobbying executive Tiernan Sittenfeld was more complimentary, applauding Biden for “committing to ambitious goals.” Greenpeace, which recently released a scorecard ranking Biden second to last among Democratic candidates, called the outline “a critical step forward,” but spokesman John Noel added that if Biden “wants to become a leader on climate, he needs to outline a plan to phase out fossil fuels.”

At the pro-Green New Deal Sunrise Movement, executive director Varshini Prakash called Biden’s plan “a good start.” Prakash also gave climate activists credit for pushing Biden to the left following their outcry after a recent news report asserted Biden was looking for a “middle ground” on climate. Biden disputed the report at the time.

As president, Biden says he’d start by reversing many actions of the Trump administration, then turn to necessary congressional action and executive branch regulation, while using U.S. political and economic muscle to limit emissions from other nations.

Lost jobs

He acknowledges that such an overhaul would affect existing U.S. energy workers — coal miners and power plant operators especially. He calls first for pension and benefit protections for all such workers and promises an “unprecedented investment” in retraining and redevelopment in those communities.

Biden recognizes the “environmental justice” movement that highlights how pollution disproportionately affects poorer, mostly nonwhite communities. He pledges a more aggressive Environmental Protection Agency, clean drinking water for all Americans and a focus on minority communities for initial rounds of federal clean energy spending.

He doesn’t offer specific spending amounts for those priorities.

climate proposal
FILE – Coal miner Chris Steele holds a sign supporting Donald Trump outside a Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton event in Williamson, W.V., May 2, 2016. VOA

Still, Biden’s dual focus on coal towns and nonwhite communities reflects political lessons from 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s loss. Clinton drew ire in coal country when she said as part of a more sweeping statement on energy development that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Transportation, construction

Biden also envisions expanding the nation’s railways, theoretically reducing demand for car and airline travel.

Among his ideas for automobiles, Biden calls for fuel economy standards “beyond” the Obama administration’s goal of about 54 miles (87 kilometers) per gallon (3.8 liters). The Trump administration has rolled that back, saying the regulation would increase auto prices. Biden also pitches expanded tax credits for purchases of electric vehicles, along with 500,000 more public charging stations nationwide by the end of 2030.

He calls for reducing carbon output from the nation’s buildings by more than 50 percent by 2035, through new construction and tax breaks for retrofitting existing commercial and residential properties. The Energy Department would be tasked with tightening efficiency standards for household appliances and equipment.

ALSO READ: Delegates at UN Habitat Assembly Take on Rapid Urbanization, Find Solutions to Tackle Climate Change

Like O’Rourke, Biden mentions nuclear energy as a source the federal government should boost with tax incentives. That could put him at odds with some activists on the left who cast nuclear energy as too dangerous.

On the international front, Biden calls out China as the world’s biggest coal polluter and says he’d hinge all future bilateral deals with Beijing on carbon reductions. Biden also urges an international alliance that would help other nations afford low-carbon development and pitches a global moratorium on Arctic offshore drilling. (VOA)

Next Story

Carbon Emissions from World’s 20 Biggest Economies Rising

The report is the most comprehensive review of G20 countries' climate performance, mapping achievements and drawbacks in their efforts

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Carbon Emissions, World, Economies
These findings are detailed in the new Brown to Green Report 2019 published by the Climate Transparency partnership, an international research collaboration. Pixabay

Carbon emissions from the world’s 20 biggest economies, including India, are rising, and the countries have to increase their emission targets that will put them on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a report by Climate Transparency said on Monday.

To keep the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees goal within reach, G20 countries will have to increase their 2030 emission targets by 2020 and significantly scale up mitigation, adaptation and finance over the next decade.

The report also said that none of the G20 countries have plans that will help them achieve the target.

These findings are detailed in the new Brown to Green Report 2019 published by the Climate Transparency partnership, an international research collaboration.

Carbon Emissions, World, Economies
To keep the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees goal within reach, G20 countries will have to increase their 2030 emission targets by 2020 and significantly scale up mitigation, adaptation and finance over the next decade. Pixabay

The report is the most comprehensive review of G20 countries’ climate performance, mapping achievements and drawbacks in their efforts to reduce emissions, adapt to climate impacts and green the financial system.

Many of the current 2030 climate targets under the Paris Agreement (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) are too weak, with about half of the G20 countries projected to meet or overachieve their inadequate NDCs.

There is plenty of room for enhanced ambition among all G20 countries.

“Among the G20 countries, India has the most ambitious NDC. However, it still needs real action now to prepare the different sectors for stringent emission reductions,” The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) Programme Director (Earth Science and Climate Change) R.R. Rashmi said.

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Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in G20 countries shot up by 1.8 per cent in 2018 due to rising energy demand, the report said.

Energy supply is not getting cleaner: despite a more than five per cent rise in G20 total renewable energy supply in 2018, the share of fossil fuels in the G20 energy mix remains at 82 per cent.

In 2018, G20 emissions in the power sector increased by 1.6 per cent. While renewables now account for 25.5 per cent of power generation, this is not sufficient to outweigh the growth of emissions from fossil fuel sources.

Coal needs to be phased out by 2030 in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and by 2040 globally, said the report.

Carbon Emissions, World, Economies
The report also said that none of the G20 countries have plans that will help them achieve the target. Pixabay

G20 transport emissions increased by 1.2 per cent in 2018. Low-carbon fuels accounted for less than six per cent of the fuel mix. They need to increase roughly 10 times by 2050 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

G20 countries need to scale up their policies to ban new fossil fuel cars by 2035 at the latest, reduce emissions from freight transport to net-zero by 2050 and shift towards non-motorised and sustainable public transport.

Cutting government subsidies to the aviation sector, taxing jet fuel and using revenues to invest massively in new carbon free fuels would leverage huge emissions reductions and health benefits.

Also G20 emissions in the building sector grew more than in any other sector in 2018 (4.1 per cent). Retrofitting existing buildings challenges all G20 and especially OECD countries. New buildings have to be near zero-energy by 2020-25 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.

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According to the report, G20 countries still provided more than $127 billion in fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. Subsidies have shown a decrease in nine G20 countries (partly due to falling fuel prices), but subsidies for natural gas infrastructure and production have remained stable or increased in many countries (despite lower prices).

“Just one year before the critical deadline the findings give us hope that countries will find the political will to commit to higher emission reduction targets in 2020 as they promised under the Paris Agreement,” said Alvaro Umana, the Co-Chair of Climate Transparency and former Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica.

In the power, India is currently investing most in renewable energy, while Brazil and Germany are the only G20 countries with long-term renewable energy strategies.

Brazil leads with 82.5 per cent renewables, while Saudi Arabia, South Korea and South Africa lag behind with shares of only 0-5 per cent.

A coal phase-out plan is needed in Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the US.

In transport, Canada, France, Japan and Britain are leading in banning the sale of fossil fuel-based cars.

The emission intensity of the industry sector is the highest in Russia, India and China. At the same time, India and China are among the G20 countries with the most progressive energy efficiency policies. (IANS)