This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.
In July, President-elect Joe Biden released the most ambitious climate agenda ever proposed by a candidate of the two major political parties. Now that Biden is set to take office on January 20, attention shifts to whether or not he follows through.
All indicators point to massive climate action from Biden’s first day in office. After winning the election, Biden’s campaign released its climate change priorities, built around a few quick actions he can take with the stroke of a pen and, in addition, long-term goals and plans.
Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day in office. His climate plan would bring the world “within striking distance” of meeting the accord’s targets, according to a report in The Guardian this week. But he has also pledged a set of major goals and initiatives that address everything from transportation to farming. Of course, it must be approved by Congress and will, in all likelihood, face changes as parts or all of his plan become law.
Let’s dive in.
The energy and automotive industries will become more sustainable
Biden’s campaign built its climate message around job creation and the economy, and appears poised to put the plan into action. Of course, whether or not much of this comes to fruition may depend on the outcome of two senate run-off races in Georgia. Biden’s plan outlines the creation of one million jobs in the auto sector working on everything from EV production to charging station deployment, “positioning American auto workers and manufacturers to win the 21st century.”
If the Democrats win control of the Senate, they will have full power over Congress, and the party has signaled it is ready to rally behind Biden’s plans. If the Democrats do not gain a majority, progress will be slower and likely not as complete. However, it’s important to remember that four years of technological development will take place over the course of Biden’s term. Progress in renewable energy production and storage will continue to develop and scale, making wind and solar energy –already more financially attractive than coal and natural gas — an even better economic bargain.
Development and growth will also proceed in the electric vehicle industry, particularly given that major American auto manufacturers have already signaled that they are preparing for the full electrification of personal vehicles. A Democratic president and House of Representatives, and a Senate with a slim Republican majority, are unlikely to significantly hinder development in these industries or others.
Agriculture, infrastructure, and open spaces will be managed more sustainably, with a focus on environmental justice
Another notable part of the plan is the call for all cities with more than 100,000 residents to develop zero-emissions public transit, and for a focus on public transit and potentially the development of a cross-country, high-speed rail network to be part of a massive infrastructure overhaul.
Biden’s plan also calls for “climate-smart agriculture.” This should include support for government initiatives such as the proposed Agriculture Resilience Act, which calls for reducing carbon emissions in the agriculture sector to net-zero by 2040. Biden also calls for the plugging of old mines and wells and the reclaiming of the land around them.
We noted above that Biden hopes to create one million jobs in bringing this all to fruition. The final section of the plan is focused on environmental justice, by developing “good, union, middle-class jobs” in areas heavily populated by minorities and those disproportionately affected by climate change. With extensive outreach and education campaigns promoting this, Biden’s administration could very well get workers on board, and through their voices, members of Congress.
Even a year ago, the entirety of this plan could have been considered a moonshot at best. But with a public increasingly aware of the impacts of climate change (a recent Pew Research Center study found that two-thirds of Americans think the government should do more to fight climate change), both technological development and an economy that increasingly rewards environmental stewardship, there’s not a section in Biden’s climate plan that isn’t at least partially feasible.
More climate wins
Nevada voters chose to seal renewable energy into the state’s constitution. They passed their state ballot’s Question 6, which mandates that energy utilities must provide at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Voters in Denver, CO, approved a 0.25 percent sales tax increase to fund environmental initiatives throughout the city. The increase was approved by City Council members earlier this year and was largely expected to gain the approval of voters. If it’s successful following its enactment in January 2021, the measure could encourage other major cities to pose a similar question to their own voters and to provide a road map of how to make it work.
Voters in several states and individual cities around the country passed ballot measures that would increase funding for public transit. In Virginia, voters elected to issue $160 million in bonds to fund maintenance on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and Austin, Texas, voters opted to fund the development of high-speed public transit around the metro area in a project known as “Project Connect.”