Responsible Investor

Biden’s Plan for climate change and environmental justice

How Joe Biden’s election might change the US energy policy

Biden’s Plan for climate change and environmental justice may give new impetus to the ambitious goals contained in the Paris Climate Agreement. During his election campaign, Barack Obama’s former vice-president promised he would re-enter the United States into the agreement with an energy and climate agenda that includes: achieving zero emissions by 2035; spending 2 trillion dollars over four years on energy efficiency for four million buildings; investing in electric vehicle production; and offering consumers financial incentives to buy cleaner cars. Once inaugurated, Biden seems set on fulfilling this promise immediately – probably as early as February – thus reversing outgoing president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement. The agreement will not require the Senate’s approval as it was set up following an executive order; it will be sufficient to send a letter to the United Nations declaring the intention to re-join, after which the official return to the agreement will take effect within 30 days.  

Although America’s formal exit from the Paris Climate Agreement on the 4th of November 2019 will not necessarily have an immediate impact on international efforts to mitigate climate change and implement the framework of the agreement, it was undoubtedly a significant blow to the international community’s ambitious efforts to reduce CO2 emissions in time to avoid the declared environmental disaster. As the world’s leading economy, the US is one of the countries that have contributed the most to climate change, which is why it is incredibly important that the US reverse its decision right from the start through Joe Biden’s plan for climate change and the environment. The challenge facing Biden’s administration, however, is not easy: during Obama’s presidency – with Biden as vice-president – the US pledged to reduce emissions between 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. But the country has not even come close to meeting this target and any progress essentially halted during Trump’s administration, which dismantled over 70 important environmental regulations in four years. 

The former Delaware Senator’s staff plans to invest 2 trillion dollars in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, cut carbon emissions from electric power to zero by 2035 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. In his Climate Plan, Biden defines climate change as the number one challenge facing humanity and one of the four major problems for the country, and has announced he will sign a series of new executive orders from his first day in office. The next president of the United States will call on Congress to enact legislation in the first year of his presidency to: establish an enforcement mechanism that includes key targets no later than the end of his first term in office in 2025; make unprecedented investments in clean energy and climate research and innovation; and incentivise the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change. Biden has also pledged to invest in smart infrastructure so that buildings and transportation can withstand the impacts of climate change. 

Biden’s Plan for a clean energy revolution and environmental justice will thus make a federal investment of 1.7 trillion dollars over the next ten years and will leverage additional private sector, state and local investments for a total of over 5 trillion dollars. The plan will be financed by “reversing Trump’s tax cuts for corporations, reducing incentives for tax havens, evasion and outsourcing, and ensuring corporations pay their fair share”. Biden also plans on signing a series of executive orders to be adopted during his first months in office, which include: conserving 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030; protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling; implementing further restrictions on methane for oil and gas wells; strengthening fuel saving standards; increasing the efficiency of government buildings; and improving efficiency standards for household appliances and buildings. Finally, Biden plans to sign an order requiring public companies to disclose climate risks and carbon emissions in their operations and aims to organise a world summit on climate.