Memo: President Biden Campaigned On Historic Clean Energy & Infrastructure Investments — This Week We’ll See His Plan To Deliver Begin To Take Shape

© 2019 Gage Skidmore/Flickr cc by SA 2.0

Industry growth and union jobs built the history of Pittsburgh. On Wednesday, Joe Biden can announce a clean energy infrastructure plan to build the future of Pittsburgh and thousands of other American cities. After campaigning on investments to revitalize our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, create millions of good paying union jobs, and power a clean energy economic recovery, now is the time to deliver.

Voters gave President Biden a mandate to act on climate. In Pittsburgh, he should make the case that now is the time to be bold. Building a clean energy economy must be at the top of our nation’s agenda.

Releasing a clean energy infrastructure plan that grows jobs in Pittsburgh and helps our nation exceed the goals of the Paris agreement is not only good policy for the president, it’s great politics. Polls from both before and after the election have shown that a $2 trillion clean energy investment agenda has consistent bipartisan support and remains one of the most popular elements of the Build Back Better agenda.

Earlier this month, Evergreen and Data for Progress released Clean Jumpstart 2021, a roadmap for Congress to realize President Biden’s vision of at least $2 trillion in clean energy and clean infrastructure investments to Build Back Better. The report offers 39 specific action steps to fulfill Biden’s bold agenda for a clean energy economic recovery — one that builds sustainable infrastructure, creates millions of good-paying union jobs, and invests in front-line communities.

What To Watch For: Biden’s Infrastructure Commitments

On the campaign trail, Biden embraced a bold and essential framework for climate policy of standards, investment and justice. This agenda is built on 3 core policies: setting a clean electricity standard to realize 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 (standards), investing $2 trillion in jumpstarting the clean energy economy (investment), and directing 40% of those green federal investments into disadvantaged communities on the frontlines of environmental injustice (justice).

In a series of plans released on the campaign trail focused on climate, clean energy, and environmental justice, Biden laid out his vision to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and transition to an equitable clean energy future. Those plans included the following recommendations for infrastructure and recovery legislation:

STANDARDS: Setting Standards to Cut Pollution and Transition Each Sector to Clean Energy

President Biden’s plans called for the use of ambitious but achievable performance standards to transform key sectors of the economy to clean energy. This approach is consistent with that called for in the Evergreen Action Plan, and includes:

  • Passing a federal Clean Electricity Standard to achieve 100% clean, carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. In February Evergreen and Data for Progress released the Roadmap to 100% Clean Electricity by 2035 report, showing a path to implementing Biden’s 100% CES — including through budget reconciliation if necessary.
  • Implementing rigorous clean car standards to drive toward electrifying 100% of new car sales, using executive authorities. President Biden has also endorsed the investments detailed in the Clean Cars for America proposal, which would supplement and bolster those new standards.
  • Pursuing energy code changes that would make all new commercial buildings zero-carbon by 2030 as well as repairing and accelerating the building code process, and creating a new funding mechanism for states and cities to adopt strict building codes and train builders and inspectors.
  • Committing that every federal infrastructure investment should reduce climate pollution, and requiring federal permitting decisions to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

INVESTMENT: Creating Good Union Jobs to Build the Clean Energy Economy

President Biden understands that tackling the climate crisis means putting millions of Americans to work building back better and his plans committed to historic investments to seize that opportunity. Many of his proposals matched recommendations made in the Evergreen Action Plan, including:

  • Upgrading 4 million buildings and weatherizing 2 million homes in the first four years of his administration, and investing in efficiency in low-income community housing. Roosevelt Institute and Evergreen detailed concrete steps to meet and exceed those goals in a new report this month, Economic Recovery Begins At Home.
  • Develop innovative financing mechanisms that leverage private sector dollars to maximize investment in the clean energy revolution. This could include a proposed Clean Energy Accelerator green bank to leverage $100 billion in public funds to drive hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in projects supporting clean energy
  • Creating a Civilian Climate Corps to mobilize a new generation of conservation and resilience workers toward projects advancing the clean economy transition in communities across the country.
  • Drive dramatic cost reductions in critical clean energy technologies, including battery storage, negative emissions technologies, the next generation of building materials, renewable hydrogen, and advanced nuclear — and rapidly commercialize them, ensuring that those new technologies are made in America.
  • Advancing the clean car revolution through Senator Schumer’s proposed Clean Cars for America plan, which would provide cash vouchers for electrified cars, build out charging infrastructure, and incentivize clean vehicle manufacturing.

JUSTICE: Working toward Environmental Justice and Equitable Economic Opportunity

Investing in the communities that have been hit first and worst by pollution and climate-fueled disasters is at the center of President Biden’s vision to Build Back Better. His plans made actionable commitments and outlined specific tools to ensure that investments in our clean energy future would work to address ongoing environmental injustices:

  • Directing 40% of climate investments to disadvantaged communities historically hardest-hit by toxic pollution and natural disasters.
  • Creating a Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool to identify those disadvantaged communities threatened by the cumulative impacts of the multiple stresses of climate change, economic and racial inequality, and multi-source environmental pollution. In the Designing A New National Equity Mapping Program report, Evergreen detailed how such a policy could jumpstart the path to climate justice by guiding federal agency decisions and investments.
  • Prioritize strategies and technologies that reduce air pollution in disadvantaged communities, improve analytical tools to ensure that air quality assessments account for health risks and benefits, and offer guidance to states seeking pollution reduction measures.

The Political Stakes: Voters Across The Ideological Spectrum Support Bold Action

President Biden campaigned on the most ambitious presidential climate plan in history — and the data shows it was key to his victory. A New York Times/Siena College poll just a few weeks prior to election day found strong support for Biden’s climate agenda. And in exit polling from Morning Consult, 3 in 4 Biden voters reported that climate change was “very important” in making their choice.

Not only did President Biden’s climate agenda help him secure his electoral victory, it presents an opportunity to deliver policies popular with Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike. Recent polling from Data for Progress on the policy recommendations outlined in Clean Jumpstart 2021 found that likely voters nationwide support a $2 trillion investment in new clean energy and infrastructure projects by a 32 point margin, including 85% of Democrats, 61% of independents, and even 37% of Republicans.

Mandate to Act: Now Is The Time To Deliver

As was demonstrated by the overwhelming support for the American Rescue Plan, it’s extremely popular when Democrats follow through on their promises to the American people and make investments that help us take on the biggest challenges we face. Congress can build on this success by delivering on President Biden’s vision for a clean energy economic recovery — they can’t pass up this chance.

An ambitious clean energy and infrastructure package is President Biden’s best opportunity to fulfill his campaign promises on climate, and launch a clean energy economic recovery that will set us on the course to Build Back Better. Congress has a political mandate to act, and this week will set the stage for how President Biden pursues this ambitious and popular agenda.

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