May 9, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Exclusive: Biden gets glowing review on climate amid struggles with young voters

Illustration of Biden's iconic aviator sunglasses with green tinted lenses.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A glowing new tally of President Biden's environmental record from a progressive coalition signals White House political progress on shoring up the climate movement's restive left flank.

Why it matters: Young climate-conscious voters are part of his base, but some activists have wanted a harder White House line on fossil fuels.

Driving the news: The pro-Democratic group Climate Power's memo, co-released by over 20 groups, credits Biden with 320+ "climate, conservation, public health and clean energy actions."

The intrigue: The youth-led Sunrise Movement, which years ago helped push the "Green New Deal" idea onto the national stage, is among the backers.

  • The group has warned that Biden risks alienating young voters, and has decried policies that include the approval of the Willow oil project in Alaska.
  • But it has also cheered steps name-checked in the new memo, like the pause on new LNG export licenses and creation of the American Climate Corps.

What they're saying: "President Biden has delivered critical climate action in his first term," Sunrise Movement campaign director Kidus Girma said in a statement alongside the memo.

  • But the group cautions that Biden must keep taking "bold" steps.

State of play: Other groups on the memo include Green Latinos, the League of Conservation Voters, Indivisible, and the Sierra Club.

  • Climate Power tells Axios it plans to use the document as a persuasion tool.
  • "Our polling shows that when young voters learn about President Biden's record, they move in his favor," Climate Power spokesperson Alex Glass tells Axios.
  • The analysis says the policies tallied have created over 270,000 jobs and are on a path to creating millions more.

Yes, but: Surveys show Democratic voters want strong steps on climate. But what that means in states that may decide the election — and how much voters connect Biden's climate record to the economy — is unclear.

  • For instance, Pennsylvania produces tons of natural gas, and its Democratic senators have misgivings about Biden's liquefied natural gas policy.
  • Or consider writer Josh Barro bashing the "zombie idea" that Biden's vulnerability is among young activists who want Biden to move left on climate and Gaza.
  • In reality, the problem is the "less-engaged, less-ideological voter who's upset about inflation," he writes.

The bottom line: The take-o-sphere has plenty of dueling analyses about whether climate will actually be salient in 2024.

  • But if the kids think Biden's all right, it could help politically.
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