- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden released a climate change plan Tuesday that would spend $1.7 trillion to steer the U.S. toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, pushing back on complaints he is weak on the issue.

Mr. Biden labeled global warming an “existential threat,” meeting the rhetorical threshold environmental activists have demanded of the 2020 presidential field.

The Biden campaign also paid lip service to the Green New Deal plan being pushed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling it a “crucial framework” for future action, though it sets more ambitious goals than his own.

Mr. Biden’s plan would leverage federal spending to unlock $5 trillion in investment over the next decade. He committed to rejoining the 2015 Paris climate change agreement aimed at slowing the increase in global temperatures. President Trump said he would withdraw the U.S. from the agreement after taking office in 2017.

“While we’re standing around not doing much, the rest of the world is moving ahead,” said the former vice president, who was part of the Obama team who struck the Paris deal.

Biden’s proposal seeks to answer complaints of Democratic critics who say Mr. Biden isn’t a leader on the issue and that his campaign had reportedly suggested a “middle ground” approach that didn’t go as far as the Green New Deal.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has made climate change the central issue of his presidential campaign, said it was great that Mr. Biden put out a plan but that his ideas lack “teeth” and “ambition.”

“This is our last chance — we don’t have 30 years to get this job done,” said Mr. Inslee, who was campaigning in Michigan on Tuesday. “My plan puts up stop signs, and I’m afraid that the vice president[‘s] plan does not. He has some wishes for 30 years from now, but we can’t wait 30 years.”

Mr. Inslee’s plan, introduced in April, sets a time frame to hit zero greenhouse gas emissions in new vehicles and zero carbon pollution from new buildings by 2030, and is supposed to put the country on a path to having clean, renewable and zero-emission electricity generation in by 2035.

Mr. Biden insisted he is the ecowarrior Democrats need to go into next year’s elections.

His plans include tax incentives to encourage more use of electric vehicles and passenger and freight rail to provide alternatives with fewer emissions than truck or jet travel.

He also suggested jailing executives of big corporate polluters.

And he said he will work to force other global emitters — particularly China, the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions — to cut greenhouse gases.

“We will not only hold their leaders accountable for reducing carbon output at home in their country, but make sure they stop financing billions of dollars [of] dirty fossil fuel projects all across Asia,” he said.

In a nod to the Green New Deal, Mr. Biden’s plan says “environmental injustices” harm lower-income and minority communities. But his proposal does say coal communities and power plant employees have to be considered, too.

His plan aims to provide pensions and health benefits for coal miners, and proposes investments in affected communities.

The League of Conservation Voters applauded Mr. Biden Tuesday, calling his goals “ambitious.”

Biden is building on his longtime commitment to a clean energy economy,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs for the group.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, sponsor of the Green New Deal, said she wanted some time to digest Mr. Biden’s proposal.

“We need to keep pushing for a plan that is at the scale of the problem,” the New York Democrat said. “If any climate plan that’s advanced is not hitting the scientifically backed posts that we need to hit, it’s not enough.”

Several news outlets also flagged passages in the plan that were very similar to language from other sources. The campaign said some citations were inadvertently left out and updated once the issue was brought to their attention.

Mr. Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race before the Iowa caucuses amid accusations of plagiarism, most notably for mimicking a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Mr. Biden chalked up another incident from law school to a misunderstanding of citation rules.

⦁ Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this report.

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