Joe Biden unveiled another key pillar of his “build back better” economic revival blueprint on Tuesday, promising to boost growth and create millions of jobs by fast-tracking trillions in clean energy infrastructure spending should he win the White House in November.
Speaking near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee pledged to invest $2 trillion over his first four-year term in office to promote a clean energy economy, advance environmental justice and turbo-charge the nation’s pandemic-ravaged labour market.
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“When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is ‘hoax’,” Biden told reporters. “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is jobs – good-paying union jobs.”
The plan, which aims to eliminate carbon emissions from the nation’s electricity grid by 2035, is larger in scope and timing than Biden’s primary pledge to spend $1.7 trillion over 10 years. The accelerated timetable is designed to lock in progress to prevent future administrations from unwinding action on climate change.
With more than 30 million Americans collecting unemployment benefits, Biden promised to re-energise the jobs market by rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, promoting US manufacturing of electric vehicles and parts, upgrading buildings to make them greener and more climate resilient, cleaning up existing environmental hazards, and furnishing US cities with 100,000 or more residents with zero-emissions public transport.
Another bedrock of the plan is the advancement of environmental justice.
Noting cancer clusters in Louisiana and Delaware and the high rates of childhood asthma in Black and brown communities, as well as findings that Black Americans are more than three times as likely as whites to die of asthma-related causes, Biden promised to redress the fallout of industrial pollutants on low-income, historically disadvantaged communities.
“I’m setting a goal to make sure that these front line and fence line communities, whether in rural places or centre cities, receive 40 percent of the benefit of the investments we’re making in housing, pollution reduction, in workforce development, in transportation, across the board,” said Biden.
Though he did not offer specifics on how he would fund the $2 trillion initiative, Biden pledged to hold past polluters to account by going after “CEOs and corporations that benefitted from decades of subsidies, then just walked away from their responsibilities to these communities”.
By inextricably linking climate change policy and environmental justice with economic growth, Biden is targeting a favourite narrative of President Donald Trump whose administration has consistently promoted a policy of generating growth by rolling back regulations, including those designed to protect the environment and lower emissions.
‘We’re going to reverse Trump’s rollbacks of 100 public health and environmental rules and then forge a path to greater ambition,” said Biden.
Last year, the Trump administration also began the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement to combat rising temperatures, claiming that US pledges agreed to by the Obama administration imposed an unfair economic burden on US workers, industries and taxpayers.
‘We’re going to get back in the Paris Agreement, back in the business of leading the world,” said Biden. “We’re going to lock in progress that no future president can roll back or undercut to take us backward again.”