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Where Joe Biden stands on climate change

Joe Biden
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