Look, Shiny Normal Thing! Joe Biden Planning 'Government Stuff' For Climate!
Photo: Fabrice Florin, Creative Commons license 2.0

Joe Biden has been taking phone calls from world leaders, much to the disgust of Marco Rubio, a known idiot, and on those calls, he's been talking with European leaders about his plans for the US to start coming to Climate Club meetings again, come January. The transition team's readouts of Biden's calls Tuesday show that when he spoke with the leaders of the UK, France, Germany, and Ireland, addressing climate change was right up there with reining in COVID-19 and rejoining the international community again. (Also, yes! A president-elect whose team releases readouts, so maybe the angry reporters will ... no, no they won't!)

And the Washington Post reports on how Biden plans to make climate concerns key to every aspect of governing, not simply the remit of the typical "environmental" agencies like EPA or the Department of Interior.

The far-reaching strategy is aimed at making significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions even without congressional action, by maximizing executive authority.

"From the very beginning of the campaign, when President-elect Biden rolled out his climate plan, he made it clear he sees this as an all-of-government agenda, domestic, economic, foreign policy," said Stef Feldman, campaign policy director for Biden. [...] "From the very beginning, when he talked about infrastructure, he talked about making sure that it built in climate change, that we are making our communities more resilient to the effects of climate change."

That makes sense, given that the world economy has been linked with oil and gasoline so closely for so long that we take it for granted. Forging a new, clean economy is going to require every part of the government to be on board, just as, in the Trump years, every part of the government was devoted to singing the praises of the Great Man. On the whole, focusing on climate will be a lot better.

To help guide that transformation, a "team of former Obama administration officials and experts" has spent a year and a half working on a blueprint for restructuring government, a 300-page guide called the "Climate 21 Project" to enable more aggressive action on climate, and also, presumably, to rile up all the Orly Taitzes. For policy nerds like Yr Dok Zoom, this looks like a fun read! For paranoid conspiracy theorists, the title sounds like straight up trolling.

It specifies dozens of changes the new administration could take to reduce greenhouse gases, beyond just reversing the slew of Trump administration policies that have boosted oil and gas drilling and relaxed pollution controls. [...]

The recommendations include creating a White House National Climate Council that is "co-equal" to the Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council; establish a "carbon bank" under the USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation that could pay farmers and forest owners to store carbon in their soils and lands; push to electrify cars and trucks through the Transportation Department; and develop a climate policy at the Treasury Department that promotes carbon reductions through tax, budget and regulatory policies.

As with Jay Inslee's climate plan, the Biden approach emphasizes the government's purchasing power as a lever for moving the private sector: Mandate that the federal vehicle fleet will be carbon neutral by a certain date (Inslee suggested 2024), and manufacturers have an incentive to ramp up electric vehicle production, since there'll be a market. California has already instituted a "Buy Clean" law that requires state purchasing decisions to take into account the carbon pollution emitted in the production of materials for infrastructure projects.

Also, nobody tell Donald Trump this, but some parts of the US government are already recognizing that climate change is wrapped up in the economy, as the Post points out:

[The] Federal Reserve's biannual financial stability report released this week warned, "Climate change adds a layer of economic uncertainty and risk that we have only begun to incorporate into our analysis of financial stability." Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard, a leading contender for treasury secretary under a Biden administration, welcomed climate's inclusion in the report, and Fed Board Chair Jerome H. Powell described it last week as a long-term risk. On Tuesday, the Fed requested to join the Network for Greening the Financial System, a global coalition of central banks and bank supervisors working to manage climate risks.

Shh! not so loud!

The story also notes that Biden's climate team plans to get moving right away, well beyond Biden's promise to rejoin the Paris climate agreement "on day one." That's important not only because every delay in reducing emissions will magnify the long-term damage, but also because

[t]he federal rulemaking and budgeting process takes time, and the United States needs to show it's taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions to persuade other countries to ratchet up their commitments in advance of next year's U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Trump administration, not surprisingly, had planned to skip that meeting altogether had he been reelected, which he was not.

That said, the task is huge, and keeps getting bigger because we've avoided taking meaningful action for decades. We're now at the point where dramatic, painful change is already coming, but we still have control over how much worse it will be:

A recent analysis by the Climate Action Tracker shows that if the president-elect's plan is fully realized it would shave 0.1 degree C off global temperature rise by 2100.

At the moment, the United States is nowhere near cutting its climate pollution by 4.3 percent a year, which is what the Rhodium Group estimates is required to achieve Biden's target of net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century.

But as we keep saying, the changes we need to make can be made, and the boom in construction and new energy technologies has the potential to make climate action not only possible, but a sound economic choice, too.

[WaPo / Biden Climate Plan / Climate 21 / Photo: Fabrice Florin, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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