This week the US Democrats want to elect Joe Biden as a candidate. Its climate goals are ambitious. But there are a couple of problems.
Joe Biden can already count on the support of the US environmental movement: “He will be the champion of climate justice that America needs in the White House,” said Michael Brune, head of the Sierra Club association, last Monday.
Like other environmental groups, the powerful lobby group with 3.8 million members is formally supporting the Democrats in his election campaign against incumbent US President Donald Trump. “This will perhaps be the most momentous choice of our lives,” said Brune. After all, ” no president has been worse for the environment or the health of our nation than Trump”. But Joe Biden, who is to be officially elected candidate at the Democratic Party conference in Milwaukee from Monday, is not only “better than Trump” from the point of view of many environmental and climate activists.
The 77-year-old senator from the US state of Delaware and Vice-President under Barack Obama, who has not yet been noticed as an eco-fighter, has had an ambitious socio-ecological concept written for the election campaign. With him he wants to make his country a world power for clean energy, e-mobility and the fight against climate change and displace China from this place.
Biden’s team has cleverly linked the demands for climate protection, for new jobs, more justice and better opportunities for minorities. The corona crisis and Trump’s politics have “destroyed millions of American jobs and exacerbated ecological injustice,” says the concept of “modern infrastructure and a just energy future”. All of this comes at a time “when science tells us that there is no time to lose with climate change”.
That’s why Biden wants to boast: With a program worth 2,000 billion dollars in his first term in office, he has big goals: to organize the US electricity supply by 2035 without coal, gas and oil and to achieve climate neutrality for the US by 2050; Energy-efficient renovation of 4 million commercial buildings and 2 million private houses; Build 1.5 million sustainable homes; equip all cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants in ten years with a transport system of buses, trains and cycle paths.
And he also wants to: provide clean drinking water and 5G internet everywhere; Replace China as a pioneer in the construction of electric cars and build 500,000 e-charging points; develop the “cleanest, safest and fastest train system in the world”; Convert 3 million publicly owned cars to electric, increase aid for sustainable and small farmers, invest massively in research on hydrogen, new materials, but also new nuclear reactors and CO 2 storage. “Biden will lead us on an irreversible path to achieve the ambitious advances in climate protection that science demands,” the concept promises.
Biden, who is close to the people as “Uncle Joe”, emphasizes again and again that he wants to combine investments in renewables, energy efficiency or new mobility with “well-paid middle-class jobs” that should be protected by trade unions.
His concept combines many eco-social demands from the “Green New Deal”, which the left wing of the Democrats propagated a year ago, with a promise to the left white lower middle class that the Democrats lost to Trump four years ago. He proposes a “Civilian Climate Corps”, in which 250,000 jobs are to be created in the renaturation and protection of landscapes.
The candidate has also taken up ideas and employees of his competitors – for example Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of the US state Washington, who ran as a “climate candidate” a year ago. Now Biden is proposing a separate “environmental justice” department in the Ministry of Justice, which is supposed to prosecute polluters.
“Joe Biden has made a decision: climate is at the center of his campaign,” says Andrew Light, an expert from the World Resources Institute in Washington, who worked on US climate policy under Obama at the State Department. “It will be a challenge to repair the damage Trump has done.”
It is also important how the new US Congress is composed, but “if Trumpism loses, not just Trump,” then moderate Republicans could also participate in a program for climate and growth, so Lights hope. Because in Congress it is decided whether important projects are financed and laws are written down. So far, Biden has not said how he will raise the $2 trillion.
Earlier he promised to bring the US back into the Paris climate agreement. In addition, he wanted to convene a climate conference of the most important states in Washington at the beginning of his term in office in order to make rapid progress.
However, it will not be easy to collect the experts and officials for the federal government who pissed off Trump’s team to rebuild the environmental agency EPA from the rubble and to reinstate the laws and standards, for example for fuel consumption for cars. That takes time, experience and help from all sides.
“Kamala Harris as vice president is a good choice,” said Light. “She comes from California, where the economy is growing, although emissions are falling, and where there is a price for CO2, almost like in Europe.” When Harris was applying for the candidacy, she even proposed a climate investment program from $10 trillion before.
Biden holds back on the controversial issue of fracking. It is said that it will limit the search for gas on public land, but it will not affect the private sector. After all, the fracking industry is an important economic factor in Biden’s home state of Pennsylvania – one of the important “swing states” that he has to win if he wants to have a chance to implement his concept at all.