This is how Biden’s climate plan stacks up to the Green New Deal

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Monday, October 12, 2020

Both President Trump and Vice President Pence spent much of the first two debates conflating the Democratic nominee’s plan for tackling climate change with an environmental blueprint introduced last year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and embraced by many young progressives.

“They have a $2 trillion version of the Green New Deal,” Pence said Wednesday evening in Utah during his first and only appearance with Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). The Democrats’ climate plan, he added, isn’t “that very different from the original Green New Deal.”

But Biden was blunt when distinguishing his plan from the other. “I don’t support the Green New Deal,” he said. “I support the Biden plan I put forward.”

So what is the difference?

The two diverge in size and scope, but both are about tackling cutting emissions while creating jobs.

Biden says he embraces the Green New Deal as a “framework” for address rising temperatures. But he stresses he has his own separate plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Democrat is threading that needle to earn the support of young, left-leaning activists who view climate change as an existential threat while aiming not to alienate moderate voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio that rely on oil and gas drilling.

Biden made a conspicuous effort to consult both environmental activists and labor unions in crafting his plan to eliminate carbon pollution from the nation’s power sector by 2035 and achieve net-zero emissions across the transportation, agricultural and other sectors of the economy by 2050.

But the Green New Deal, as described in a resolution released in early 2019 by Ocasio-Cortez, sets an even more aggressive goal: Entirely eliminating U.S. contributions to climate change in just 10 years.

Experts say either target would be tough to hit. But U.N. scientists also say the world has precious little time to rapidly reduce the release of heat-trapping pollution. According to a 2018 report, nations will fail to keep global warming to moderate levels unless “unprecedented” cuts are made over the next decade.

Biden is selling his plan not only as a way to halt global warming, but also as an opportunity to bring back manufacturing domestically. “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs,’ ” Biden said in July.

Backers of the Green New Deal have an even more sweeping vision. Included in the plan is a guarantee to provide Americans with jobs, as well as a promise to provide “high-quality health care.”

The Green New Deal is a broad blueprint, not a detailed plan such as Biden’s.

What it has in breadth, the Green New Deal lacks in depth. It was introduced as a nonbinding resolution, written without specifics to build a broad coalition of supporters that included Harris, who was one of several Senate Democrats running for president who co-sponsored it.

It doesn’t prescribe specifically how the federal government should reach its emissions-reduction goals. As the deal’s proponents note, Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t have every detail of his own New Deal nailed down when he first pitched it during the Great Depression.

The proposal also didn’t specify a price tag, though conservative critics have claimed it would cost as much as $100 trillion. During last week’s debate, Trump dusted off that talking point. “This is a $100 trillion,” he said. “That’s more money than our country could make in 100 years.”

Biden’s plan, meanwhile, is more detailed. He wants Congress to pass legislation mandating emissions cuts from electric utilities and offering generous checks to those buying electric vehicles. His campaign says the plan will cost $2 trillion — not $100 trillion — over four years and would be paid for in part by rolling back Trump’s tax cuts.

Aiming to win Pennsylvania, Biden has consistently rebuffed activists’ calls to demand an end to fracking, a controversial oil and gas extraction technique that not only contributes to climate change but also poses a danger to drinking water. But the Green New Deal doesn’t address fracking at all.

One area of overlap between Biden’s plan and the Green New Deal is in addressing the unequal impact pollution has on people of color.

Biden wants to spend some 40 percent of the money earmarked for clean energy in historically disadvantaged areas. That target is in line with the Green New Deal’s demand to “promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression” of what it calls “frontline and vulnerable communities.”

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