Close to 70% of registered voters in the United States say they consider climate change to be a very (42%) or somewhat (26%) important issue in deciding how to cast their vote for president in the 2020 election, according to the Pew Research Center. Here is a brief overview of President-elect Joe Biden’s announced plans for addressing climate change, based on information currently on his official website.

Key Takeaways

  • President-elect Joe Biden's climate change initiatives include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in part by setting higher efficiency standards for cars, buildings, and consumer appliances.
  • Much of the Biden plan also involves working with other nations and securing commitments that they will abide by global climate agreements.
  • Biden's plan would represent “the largest-ever investment in clean energy research and innovation,” at an estimated cost of $400 billion over 10 years, according to his website.

1. 'Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050'

President-elect Biden says he will sign a series of executive orders toward the above-stated end as well as demand that Congress establish an enforcement mechanism, invest in energy and climate research and innovation, and incentivize the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations. 

Among the specific steps, Biden's plan proposes to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by implementing new fuel economy standards. The end goal would be for 100% of new light- and medium-duty vehicles to be electric powered and for heavier vehicles to make continuous progress in that direction. The federal government would also incentivize the development of 100% clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles by leveraging the $500 billion annual purchasing power of its procurement programs.
  • Establish new appliance- and building-efficiency standards for consumers. The federal government would also implement new standards to ensure that all of its facilities are more energy efficient and “climate-ready.”
  • Set aggressive limits on methane pollution for oil and gas producers. 

2. 'Build a stronger, more resilient nation'

Biden’s plan defines that as making “smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change.”

Among the specifics, Biden's plan would: 

  • Help develop new zoning and building codes for communities to adapt to climate change. 
  • Work with the insurance industry to lower property insurance costs for homeowners and communities that invest in measures to provide resiliency against storms, sea level rise, wildfires, and other perils. 
  • Rebuild the American railroad system so that the U.S. has “the cleanest, safest, and fastest rail system in the world—for both passengers and freight.” Biden's plan refers to this as “the second great railroad revolution.”
  • Work to create a “new class of well-paying jobs and job training around climate resilient industries.” Those would include resilient infrastructure design, construction, and evaluation, and coastal restoration.

3. 'Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change'

Biden says he would recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change, which President Donald J. Trump has announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from, and “lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets.” Biden says he would also integrate climate change initiatives into U.S. foreign policy, national security strategies, and trade arrangements.

Among the specifics, Biden intends to: 

  • Convene a world climate summit to persuade the leaders of the major carbon-emitting nations to join the U.S. in making more ambitious commitments to reducing emissions.
  • Work to create enforceable international agreements reducing global shipping and aviation emissions.
  • Demand a worldwide ban on fossil-fuel subsidies. That would include stopping China from subsidizing coal exports. Biden also says he would cut fossil-fuel subsidies in the U.S. during his first year and use that money to invest in clean energy infrastructure.
  • Publish a Global Climate Change Report to hold other countries accountable for their climate commitments and “name and shame” violators.

4. 'Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities'

Citing Flint, Mich., as one example, Biden says he would work to protect vulnerable communities from actions by fossil-fuel companies and other polluters that “knowingly harm our environment and poison our communities’ air, land, and water, or conceal information regarding potential environmental and health risks.”

Among the specifics, his plan would: 

  • Direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Justice Department to more aggressively pursue criminal anti-pollution cases. A Biden administration would also “seek additional legislation as needed to hold corporate executives personally accountable—including jail time where merited.”
  • Ensure safe drinking water for all communities by making water infrastructure a top priority. That would include establishing systems to monitor for lead and other contaminants in the water supply. 

Biden's plan also addresses the impact of a transition to cleaner energy on jobs in coal mining and related industries, with promises to help those workers and their communities.

5. 'Fulfill our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth'

Biden says his policies would protect workers affected by the transition to cleaner energy sources, such as coal miners and power plant workers, as well as invest in their communities.

Among the specifics, Biden proposes to:

  • Partner with coal and power plant communities to help diversify their economies and create “good, middle class jobs.”
  • Ensure that miners receive the pensions and health benefits they have been promised and urge Congress to pass legislation that would protect the retirement benefits of miners, their widows, and dependents. 
  • Require coal companies to increase their payments into the black lung benefits program for miners and “reform the black lung benefits system so it is no longer rigged in favor of coal companies who can hire lawyers and doctors to ensure miners’ benefits are denied.” 

Biden says that his plan “will make the largest-ever investment in clean energy research and innovation,” at an estimated cost of $400 billion over 10 years. “This investment,” he maintains, “will enable us to develop new technological break-throughs that will create jobs and drastically reduce emissions.”

Considerably more detail on these and other policies is available at the Biden campaign’s website. There is also some general information on his party’s position on climate change and some initiatives to combat it in that section of the 2020 Democratic Party Platform.