Climate News

Biden ‘Middle Ground’ Approach to Climate Slammed by Activists, Rivals

Photo: Kelly Kline

Former Vice President and Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden is said to be drafting a climate agenda that seeks a “middle ground” path on the climate crisis, according to a May 10 Reuters report.

On the one hand, Biden is likely to stay with the Paris Agreement and preserve Obama’s regulations on emissions and fossil fuel efficiency that Trump has sought to reverse.

But, on the other hand, one unnamed source told Reuters that Biden’s policy could include nuclear energy and fossil fuel options, such as natural gas and carbon capture technology.  

The former Vice President’s approach stands in stark contrast to many of Biden’s 2020 rivals. Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke has called for the mobilization of $5 trillion to make the United States a carbon neutral nation by 2050.  Washington Governor Jay Inslee unveiled a comprehensive climate agenda urging the closure of all coal-fired power plants in the United States by 2030.  Senators Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren all co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Senator Ed Markey.

Only recently, did Biden enter the race, but he has emerged as a frontrunner in various polls.

Biden’s “middle ground” approach was met with ridicule from environmentalists.  

“Interesting strategy: Biden calls on physics, chemistry to meet him halfway. Will be curious to see how they respond,” wrote Bill McKibben on Twitter.

Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash offered a blistering critique of the approach:

“Biden’s ‘middle ground’ will drown entire communities forever, set vast swaths of our country ablaze, kill millions of species, & tear apart the fabric of our global economy & society,” said Prakash. “My generation doesn’t have the luxury or privilege of ‘middle ground.’”

Inslee, who is committed to keeping climate policy at the forefront of the Democratic platform, also took a shot at the frontrunner:

And so did Sanders:

Perhaps Ocasio-Cortez said it best:

The Reuters report revealed that Heather Zichal has been serving as an informal adviser to Biden on climate policy.  She was President Barack Obama’s deputy assistant for energy and climate change and is currently the Vice President of Corporate Engagement for the Nature Conservancy. Until recently, she was also on the board of directors for Cheniere Energy Inc., a company that exports liquified natural gas. While working for Obama, Zichal met with Cheniere executives.

Zichal was quick to condemn the report:

“I expect as president @JoeBiden would enact a bold policy to tackle climate change in a meaningful and lasting way,” wrote Zichal on Twitter. “Reuters got it wrong. Any suggestion that it wouldn’t is in direct contradiction to his long record of understanding climate change as an existential threat.”

Biden has tried to brand himself as a climate champion on the campaign trail, pointing to his track record on the issue that dates back to the 1980s.  

“I’m one of the first guys to introduce a climate change bill, way, way back in ‘87,” said Biden in a recent speech in Iowa.   

However, it is unclear whether Biden is willing to address the urgent need for climate action, as shown in the recent IPCC and US National Climate Assessment reports.  While some Obama-era staffers have moved away from the former President’s incremental approach to combating climate change in favor of bolder policies, others remain committed to Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which included fossil fuels as well as renewable energy.

Biden has yet to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, which commits presidential candidates to campaign free of contributions from the fossil fuel industry and corporate political action committees.  This stands in contrast to Sanders, Inslee, Warren, Gillibrand, O’Rourke, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and other candidates, who signed the pledge.

Biden’s  “middle ground” approach to the climate crisis shows that the Democratic frontrunner is out of touch with science and a base that has become increasingly mobilized on the issue.   While the details of Biden’s proposal remain to be seen, halfway measures fall woefully short.  

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