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Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden has released a climate and energy plan with the goal of achieving net-zero U.S. greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050.

Why it matters: As the race for 2020 heats up, climate change has emerged as a key issue for primary voters — with many of Biden's competitors putting climate policy front and center. In a CNN poll released in April, 96% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said it's very or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to promise aggressive action on climate change.

Driving the news: Biden released his climate and energy plan on Tuesday outlining the legislative, executive and international actions he seeks to enact, if elected.

Key details of Biden's climate plan
  • Legislative goals: A bill that requires emissions cuts with an "enforcement mechanism" to reach his 2050 goal.
    • Big spending increases on low-carbon energy and "resilient infrastructure" funded by reversing Trump's 2017 corporate tax cuts.
    • A suite of tax code changes.
  • Executive actions: Include methane limits for oil and gas, new fuel economy standards, tougher appliance and building efficiency standards.
    • His plan also outlines social justice and equity provisions and steps to help fossil fuel workers.
  • International: Biden wants to go further than just rejoining the Paris Climate Deal.
    • This includes pushing other countries to increase their emissions-cutting ambitions through diplomacy, new policies to incorporate climate into trade policy, and potential fees or quotas on "carbon-intensive goods" from countries that aren't meeting their climate obligations.
  • Green New Deal: Biden's platform praises the Green New Deal, calling it a "crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face."
  • Personnel: Biden is seeking a pragmatic path on climate policy and brought on Heather Zichal, a former top Obama aide, as an informal adviser, according to a Reuters report.
  • Fossil fuel money: Biden plans to sign the "no fossil fuel money" pledge on contributions.
  • EV: Wants to deploy 500,000 charging stations by 2030. His vehicle standards are aimed at ultimately ensuring 100% of light- and medium-duty sales are EVs, although no date is provided.

Yes, but: Several key portions would require legislation, Axios' Ben Geman notes. That's a big lift unless Democrats regain the Senate and ease filibuster rules or use special budget-related legislation that could allow provisions to pass with a simple majority.

  • In early May, before releasing his plan, a Biden adviser said he would take a “middle ground” approach to his climate policy. That comment sparked attacks from the left, but the plan Biden announced Tuesday has tempered that criticism.

Context: Biden does have a 30-plus-year history of policy positions based on his time as a senator and as vice president.

  • In 1986, he introduced the Senate's first climate bill, per the New York Times.
  • He co-sponsored a "Sense of the Senate" resolution in 2005, which called for the U.S. to participate in U.N. climate negotiations. Two years later he co-sponsored the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007, which amended the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
    • The League of Conservation Voters has awarded Biden an 83% lifetime score on his record of voting for pro-environment causes while in the Senate.
  • As a senator, he supported tax credits for renewable energy, and as vice president, he supported a series of emissions reduction regulations established by President Obama, per the NYT.
  • He has likened denying climate change to "almost like denying gravity."

Go deeper: Joe Biden on the issues, in under 500 words

Go deeper

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Axios AM Deep Dive: America’s murder surge

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Homicides rose at the fastest rate in at least six decades last year. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by Future correspondent Bryan Walsh, looks at the state of gun crime.