Biden to Release $2 Trillion Climate Plan

Joseph R. Biden Jr. will announce on Tuesday a new plan to spend $2 trillion over four years to significantly escalate the use of clean energy in the transportation, electricity and building sectors, part of a suite of sweeping proposals designed to create economic opportunities and build infrastructure while also tackling climate change.

In a speech in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden intends to build on his plans, released last week, for reviving the economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, with a new focus on enhancing the nation’s infrastructure and emphasizing the importance of putting the United States on a path to significantly cut fossil fuel emissions.

The proposal is the second plank in Mr. Biden’s economic recovery plan. His team sees an opportunity to take direct aim at President Trump, who has struggled to deliver on his pledges to finance major improvements to American infrastructure. Republicans are sure to criticize the proposal as an attack on jobs in the energy sector — but the plan will also test whether Mr. Biden has found a way to win over environmental activists and other progressives who have long been skeptical about the scope of his ambitions on climate.

His plan outlines specific and aggressive targets, including achieving an emissions-free power sector by 2035 and upgrading four million buildings over four years to meet the highest standards for energy efficiency. The plan also calls for establishing an office of environmental and climate justice at the Department of Justice and developing a broad set of tools to address how “environmental policy decisions of the past have failed communities of color.”

In an interview, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, a prominent environmentalist who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination on a platform of combating climate change and later endorsed Mr. Biden, called the proposal a “triple-A-rated clean energy plan,” saying that Mr. Biden has “vigorously seized this moment.”

“This is not a status quo plan,” said Mr. Inslee, who has spoken with Mr. Biden about climate. He added, “It is comprehensive. This is not some sort of, ‘Let me just throw a bone to those who care about climate change.’” He called the proposal “visionary.”

Evergreen Action, an organization that advocates far-reaching climate goals and is led by a number of former Inslee staffers, also discussed ideas with Mr. Biden’s staff in recent months, the organization said. In a call with reporters on Tuesday morning, senior Biden campaign officials said the proposal was the product of discussions with scientists, climate and environmental justice leaders, union members and leaders, mayors and governors, and representatives from the small-business and manufacturing communities.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nation’s top climate science body, holding global temperatures to a safe level will require global carbon pollution to fall to “net zero” by 2050 — that is, eliminating as many emissions as we put into the atmosphere.

Mr. Biden’s original plan called for spending $1.7 trillion over ten years with a goal of achieving net-zero emissions before 2050. The new blueprint significantly increases the amount of money and accelerates the timetable to four years.

Paying for it, campaign officials said, will come from a mix of increasing the corporate income tax rate from 21 to 28 percent, “asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share” and some still undetermined amount of stimulus dollars.

One major element of the announcement will include charting a path to zero carbon pollution from the U.S. electricity sector by 2035. According to the Energy Information Association, coal and natural gas still account for more than 60 percent of the sector.

Campaign officials said they expect to achieve the goal by encouraging the installation of “millions of new solar panels and tens of thousands of wind turbines,” but also keeping in place existing nuclear energy plants. The plan also will call for investing in carbon capture and storage technology for natural gas.

Under the new plan, Mr. Biden also promises new research funding and tax incentives for carbon-capture technology.

Early reaction from the environmental community was optimistic.

Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, called Mr. Biden’s plan “ambitious” and said it gave her confidence that climate change will be a top priority in a Biden administration.

Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate group, had been critical of Mr. Biden’s commitment on the environment but later joined a task force to help shape his platform. She said the new plan was a “huge step forward” and praised its call for increased investment in clean energy, as well as its focus on creating union jobs and linking environmental policy with addressing systemic racism.

“This I think represents a substantial increase in ambition on the part of Biden’s campaign,” Ms. Prakash said.