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Where Joe Biden stands on climate change

Joe Biden
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden's record on climate change goes back more than 30 years, but when it comes to how it'll influence his 2020 run, he's remained fairly ambiguous so far.

Why it matters: As the race for 2020 heats up, climate change has emerged as a key issue with primary voters — with many of Biden's 2020 competitors putting climate policy front and center.

  • In a CNN poll released earlier this month, 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.
  • Biden said he plans to deliver "a major speech in detail" by the end of May with more details about his environmental plan, per the New York Times.

Driving the news: While he has yet to release an official policy platform, Biden is seeking pragmatic path on climate policy and has brought on Heather Zichal, a former top Obama aide, as an informal adviser, according to a Reuters report.

  • Biden isn't seeking to join rivals who are running to the left on the issue, and has not endorsed the Green New Deal backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and many other 2020 rivals.
  • But the "backbone" of his policy will include: remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement and preserving emissions and vehicle mileage rules that President Trump's administration is unwinding.
    • Axios' Ben Geman outlined some reasons why Biden may be incentivized to avoid running left on climate. Some of these reasons include his play for labor support and the chance to provide a contrast to the crowded 2020 field of Green New Deal co-sponsors, while still being able to point to his climate record with former President Obama.
  • Zichal told Reuters that Biden will seek to build a "new climate coalition" and that "unions and environmentalists are searching for common ground."
    • Yes, but: After the story was published, Zichal responded on Twitter, calling it "wrong" and saying Biden "would enact a bold policy to tackle climate change in a meaningful and lasting way."

The backdrop: Despite not having an official 2020 climate policy, Biden does have a 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, 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: Everything else you need to know about Joe Biden