Where does Joe Biden stand on the 3 emergencies facing us today and the 2 solutions we must implement?

Biden talks about the goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. His proposals on climate fall seriously short, however, of what is needed to meet the immediate IPCC target of a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.  Climate Grade: C

Biden also talks about inequality and has a number of proposals for cutting costs and raising living standards for working class and middle class families. Once again, however, these proposals fall far short of what is needed to seriously address unsustainable levels of inequality in this country. Inequality Grade: D

Biden has not questioned the basic idea of having – and using, if necessary – nuclear weapons as a “deterrent.” He has supported re-joining the Iran nuclear deal and continuing negotiations with North Korea, but only as a means of removing the nuclear threat from those two countries. In his long Washington career, he has never questioned the right of the United States to continue threatening the rest of the world with these weapons. Nuclear Weapons Grade: F

See Joe Biden’s Plans

1. Declare that the fossil fuel age is over – 0
Biden has a bold plan to address the climate emergency with a “clean energy revolution.” He does not propose to eliminate all burning of fossil fuels, however. He wants to “limit,” but not eliminate, fracking. He wants to stop the drilling for oil on public lands, but does not want to end all drilling for oil. He wants to eliminate government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, but does not talk about divesting from these industries altogether. And by relying heavily on “carbon capture and storage” as a means of reaching net-zero emissions, Biden is assuming that we will continue to burn fossil fuels for the indefinite future. This is a long way from declaring an end to the fossil fuel era.

2. 100% fossil-free electricity by 2030 – 2
Biden’s plan calls for 100% clean electricity by 2050, with “milestones” to be achieved along the way to ensure that we will get there. He doesn’t spell out what those milestones might look like, and fails to mention anywhere in his plan that the IPCC target is for a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. This is a serious omission, since it is virtually impossible to meet this more immediate target without moving much faster than he proposes on fossil-free electricity (and vehicles). Biden calls for $1.7 trillion in federal investment over 10 years, including $400 billion on research. But with a lot of that money going into longer-term efforts to build the next generation of nuclear power plants and carbon capture technologies, it is hard to see how we would come close to meeting the emission targets for 2030.

3. Ban the sale of all non-electric vehicles by 2030 – 1
Biden calls for new emission standards that would require all new car sales to be 100% electric. But nowhere does he give a date as to when this would be achieved. Biden proposes reinstating full tax credits for buying an EV and wants to build 500,000 new EV charging stations across the country by 2030. But it is difficult to see how these measures will achieve anything like the transition to EVs that is needed to achieve the necessary 45% emission reductions by 2030.

4. Phase out all HFCs by 2030 – 2
Biden is at least on board with the need to drastically reduce hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions as quickly as possible. He is committed to getting the US signed up to the Kigali agreement that would phase out all HFC use globally. He also wants to use some of his research investment to ensure we are developing non-HFC alternatives for refrigeration and air conditioning. He does not, however, mention the need to go beyond the Kigali agreement to eliminate all HFCs nor does he set a target of 2030 to achieve this.

5. Fossil-free building code by 2025 – 0
Biden talks about achieving “zero net energy buildings at zero net cost.” In reality, the conversion and retrofitting of millions of existing buildings across the US to run solely on electricity for heating (and cleaning and cooking) is going to be one of the most costly and time-consuming projects in the whole transition to a green economy. What is needed in the immediate term, and is effectively “free” to achieve, is a nationwide building code that requires all new buildings to be constructed with all-electric heating and cooking. Biden does not address this at all. In fact, by focusing more on energy efficiency and consumer appliances (without mentioning heating), Biden is missing one of the most urgent requirements for averting a climate catastrophe.

  6. Plant 10 billion trees by 2030 – 1
Biden mentions the need to plant more trees as part of the overall effort to address the climate crisis, but does not talk about how many or by when. Nor does he intend to set aside any money for that. As with rest of his climate plan, Biden talks more about re-generating the American economy to deal with the problem than about addressing the problem as a government. 

7. Re-negotiate Paris Agreement – 4
Biden promises to re-join the Paris Agreement on his first day in office, and talks about the need to move beyond the targets set by that Agreement in 2015. That agreement had as its aim to keep global warming to within 2C of historic levels, but the latest IPCC report in November 2018 made it very clear that to avert a climate catastrophe, we need to keep global warming to within 1.5C, not 2C.

1. Extreme wealth tax – 0

Biden wants to roll back some of the Trump tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest, but does not propose any further increases in income tax or a tax on extreme wealth as a means of reducing the unsustainable levels of inequality in this country. Overall, his tax plans would seek to close loopholes and force large corporations to pay their fair share, but would not necessarily bring about any significant change in levels of inequality in this country.

2. Free, universal access to services – 0

Biden opposes the big government items that Bernie Sanders is proposing, such as Medicare for All, free college tuition, ending student debt, free school meals, or universal access to childcare. Instead, he wants to expand Obamacare to cover more people and reduce medical bills. He wants to provide two years of college for free and provide assistance to students trying to pay off their debts. These, and many other measures that Biden proposes will help to offset some of the challenges facing poor and middle-class families, but do not fundamentally address the unsustainable levels of inequality.

3. Create millions of decent, well-paid jobs – 3
Biden claims his Clean Energy Revolution would create 10 million well-paid union jobs with good working conditions. He doesn’t go into any details about this, but the implication is that these jobs will be created by the $1.7 trillion federal investment plus $3.3 trillion of private investment in the new clean energy economy.

4. Job guarantee and re-training – 1
Biden says he “will not leave any workers or communities behind.” He promises to protect coalminer pensions and ensure they get black lung benefits they are due. He says he will invest in the communities left behind by the transition to clean energy, but he doesn’t specify how or to what extent. There are no figures attached to these promises, and no guarantees of a new job or help with re-training, re-location and/or early retirement for displaced workers.

5. Subsidize transition to fossil-free economy – 1
Apart from reinstating the federal tax credit for purchasing an EV, Biden is not proposing any further incentives to help enable low and middle-income families make the transition to a fossil-free economy.

6. Targeted economic development – 3
Biden will “boost federal investments in low-income neighborhoods” as part of his $1 trillion infrastructure program to repair and re-build roads, bridges, railways and ports. He says he will apply the “10-20-30 formula to all federal programs, which would allocate 10% of funding to counties where 20% or more of the population has been living below the poverty line for the last 30 years.”

7. Commit 0.7% of GDP to fund Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 – 1

Biden plans to invest $4 billion to improve conditions for those who are otherwise fleeing their homes in Latin America to come to the United States. This is good, but falls far short of the levels of commitment needed to radically address poverty and inequality across the globe, which would require an investment from the US of at least $140 billion each year for the next 10 years.

Nuclear weapons
1. Renounce pressing the button – 1
Biden has said “it’s hard to envisage a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary.” But he has not ruled out using nuclear weapons to kill millions of civilians “in response” to a nuclear attack. By defending the idea that we need nuclear weapons for so-called “deterrence,” Biden is still willing to base the nation’s defense strategy on the threat to annihilate whole populations and potentially the whole human race.

2. Affirm existing disarm obligations – 3
Biden knows very well that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 obligates the US to negotiate “in good faith” the elimination of all nuclear weapons. He has stood by President Obama’s vision to work towards that goal, but has yet to actually state his own intention to achieve that goal if elected President. 

3. Stop funding nuclear weapons – 0

Biden has been voting to fund nuclear weapons his whole career. As Obama’s Vice President, Biden supported the $1.7 trillion program for new nuclear weapons programs over the next 30 years. He has not suggested that even this amount could be better spent on addressing the climate crisis and other urgent funding priorities.

4. Sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty – 0
Biden has not yet shown any interest in signing the Nuclear Ban Treaty.

5. Remove from operational status – 0
Biden has not made any moves to discuss how the world could be made safer from the threat of nuclear weapons by removing them from operational status, where they cannot so easily be launched by mistake and as a result of miscalculation or misunderstanding, as China, India, Pakistan and Israel have done.

6. Negotiate timetable to disarm – 0
No mention of the need to begin thinking about a timetable to get rid of our own nuclear weapons along with those of the other nuclear-armed nations.

7. Dismantle weapons by 2030 – 0
No discussion of this deadline, or any deadline, as yet.

Grading system – how the candidates are being judged