Memo: Joe Biden’s Mandate for Climate Action

Biden’s climate plan was the most ambitious in history. Voters just gave him a mandate to govern on it.

© 2019 Gage Skidmore/Flickr cc by SA 2.0

Biden Ran on Bold Climate Action, and Voters Responded

Biden’s victory should be credited, in part, to the fact that climate action — and his Standards-Investments-Justice agenda to fight the climate crisis — is widely popular, and was a key factor motivating Democratic voters. 3 out of every 4 Biden voters said climate change was “very important” to their vote.

Stills from Joe Biden’s climate change ads aired in Michigan and Arizona

The Historic Ambition of Biden’s Climate Plan

Biden’s climate plans were unprecedented in their scope, ambition, and urgency. The comparison to candidates’ 2016 plans is significant: Hillary Clinton’s 2016 plan had a marquee goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% from 2005 levels by 2050, while Bernie Sanders’s plan that year called for an 80% reduction from 1990 levels on the same timeline. Biden’s 2050 goal, by contrast: net-zero emissions, economy-wide.

© 2020 Gage Skidmore/Flickr cc by SA 2.0

Inside Biden’s Standards, Investments, and Justice Agenda

In developing his plan, Biden listened to grassroots advocates, frontline community organizers, workers and labor leaders, policy experts, and some of his primary campaign rivals. Biden’s ultimate platform embraced a bold and necessary framework of Standards, Investments, and Justice to lessen the impacts of climate disasters, invest in vulnerable communities, and create millions of good jobs in the process.


Preventing the most catastrophic impacts of climate change will require establishing ambitious sector-specific standards to cut carbon emissions on clearly defined timelines.

  • Zero-carbon buses by 2030 and aggressive fuel economy standards for all vehicles
  • Upgrading 4 million buildings and weatherizing 2 million homes in the first four years of his administration
  • A net-zero goal for all new commercial buildings by 2030


The president-elect’s platform also relies on robust public and private investments to build 21st-century green infrastructure, support state and local climate leadership, and spur the creation of millions of living-wage, union jobs across the country to build the clean, fair economy that science and justice demand.

  • Retrofitting existing buildings and building energy-efficient, fully electrified new ones
  • Restoring landscapes harmed by pollution
  • Expanding green public transit and kickstarting the American leadership in building the clean cars of the future
  • Supporting the research and development of cost-effective clean energy technologies to be rapidly deployed on a national scale. Biden’s promised investment in clean energy innovation would be “on a scale well beyond the Apollo space program.”


Crucially, Biden made justice and equity a clear priority in his plans for climate action and building a clean economy.

Biden’s Mandate to Act on Climate

Biden’s campaign climate plans evoke transformative investments, aggressive standards, and a foundational commitment to justice for frontline communities. Those plans evolved from deep listening and collaboration with grassroots climate justice advocates, clean energy experts, and even the president-elect’s primary election rivals. The result was a more ambitious commitment to climate action than any presidential platform in American history.