Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden, fresh from announcing his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is taking criticism for reported plans to carve out a “middle ground” on climate change in his campaign platform designed to satisfy environmentalists and blue collar voters alike.
“The backbone of the policy will likely include the United States rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and preserving U.S. regulations on emissions and vehicle fuel efficiency that Trump has sought to undo,” Reuters writes in an exclusive report, citing unnamed sources. “The policy could also be supportive of nuclear energy and fossil fuel options like natural gas and carbon capture technology, which limit emissions from coal plants and other industrial facilities.”
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That plan “will set Biden apart from many of his Democratic rivals for the White House who have embraced much tougher climate agendas, like the Green New Deal calling for an end to U.S. fossil fuels use within 10 years,” the news agency adds. That, in turn, could make Biden “a target of environmental groups and youth activists ahead of next year’s primary elections.”
Democrats who have endorsed the GND to date include nomination candidates Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, Reuters notes.
“I respect where (activist groups) are coming from,” responded Biden advisor Heather Zichal, former deputy assistant for energy and climate change to President Barack Obama, and a former board membe r of Texas-based liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy. “What we learned from the Obama administration is unless we find middle ground on these issues, we risk not having any policies.”
Sanders replied on Twitter that there is “no middle ground when it comes to climate policy.” Inslee, the Washington State governor who has placed climate action at the centre of his campaign , acknowledged Biden’s climate legacy as part of the Obama administration but added that “the times and science have changed. We cannot simply go back to the past; we need a bold climate plan for our future.”
GND leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez )D-NY) called  Biden’s plan as reported “a deal-breaker”, while the youth-led Sunrise Movement rejected it as “a death sentence for our generation.”
In launching his presidential bid, Biden has sought to position himself as a moderate alternative to some of the nearly two dozen potential presidential nominees in the Democratic field. On climate, he attempted on Friday “to remind voters that he was an early supporter of tackling climate change and promised a detailed plan soon,” the New York Times reports.
“I’m proud to have been one of the first to introduce climate change legislation,’’ he tweeted. “What I fought for in 1986 is more important than ever—climate change is an existential threat. Now. Today.” So “we need policies that reflect this urgency. I’ll have more specifics on how America can lead on climate in the coming weeks.”
Reuters cites a recent CNN poll that identifies climate change as the top issue among Democratic voters, and Julian Brave NoiseCat, director of Green New Deal strategy at the Data for Progress think tank, told the Times he hoped Biden came up with a robust plan.
“He appeals to white, middle-class, suburban voters and that’s great, but he’s not doing so well among young people,” NoiseCat said. “We do have a policy out there designed to build a new climate coalition. It’s called the Green New Deal and he needs to jump aboard it.”
Former Clinton staffer Paul Bledsoe, strategic advisor at Progressive Policy Institute, said he was glad to see Biden searching for a climate plan that would appeal to working class voters. “Indulging in ideological purity is great until you actually want to solve the problem,” he told the Times.
But Greenpeace USA isn’t waiting for a final announcement before amping up pressure on Biden to adopt a plan that halts fossil fuel expansions, provides a just transition to a 100% renewable energy economy, supports communities facing extreme weather and climate disasters, holds fossil executives responsible for climate damage, and frees the political system from corporate money and influence.“We need presidential candidates with the guts to move us toward a healthier and more prosperous future, where we reject the politics of pandering and confront the billionaires who’ve literally destroyed the planet,” Greenpeace writes  on its petition site. “That means saying NO to fossil fuels and YES to a just and equitable Green New Deal.”