By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. presidential election pits a politician who supports environmental regulation and diplomacy to tackle climate change against another determined to dismantle such policies.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, has focused on dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate agenda to free the energy and auto industries from the costs of regulations meant to protect health and the environment.
Joe Biden, a Democrat who was a senator before becoming Obama’s vice president, introduced one of the earliest bills on climate change in 1986 and envisions a diplomatic push to engage the world in reducing coal dependence. Even so, many environmentalists and liberals in his party have demanded he adopt more aggressive stances that call for a quicker end to all fossil fuels.
Biden is expected to unveil a new economic recovery plan on Tuesday focused on environmentally sustainable infrastructure and clean energy.
Here are some of the major climate issues at play in the Nov. 3 election.
Biden touts a $ 1.7 trillion plan to set the United States on a course to achieve 100% clean energy and net-zero emissions by 2050. Dubbed the Clean Energy Revolution, his proposal calls for the installation of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030, ending fossil fuel subsidies and providing $ 400 billion for research and development in clean technology. He supports research into high-tech nuclear energy that would be virtually emissions free, but likely still have waste issues.
Biden has worked with Democrats who called on him to strengthen his 2019 plan, including a task force co-chaired by liberal Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that made a series of policy recommendations in July to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels.
Biden also appointed an advisory council including philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer on how to win the support voters who are focused on climate and efforts to protect minority communities on the frontline of air and water pollution.
Trump does not have a climate plan on his campaign website, but an energy and environment section highlights his administration’s focus on unraveling Obama-era regulations. This includes the Clean Power Plan, which was later upheld by the courts, and a plan to curb emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that leaks from oil-and-gas operations.
Trump has rejected mainstream science on climate and said in April, “Our carbon, our atmosphere, our – the level of environmental cleanliness is at its all-time best right now” – an inaccurate claim. Like Biden, he supports advanced nuclear technology.
Biden wants to strengthen auto emission standards formed during the Obama administration. Trump, who had called the regulations “industry killing,” replaced the standards with weaker ones in March.
Trump had a vision of a renaissance in “beautiful clean coal,” the fuel that emits the most carbon dioxide when burned, and invited miners to the White House in early 2017 as his administration announced plans to slash air and water regulations.
But due to abundant and falling prices for wind and solar power, Trump has failed to stop coal plant shutdowns during his term in office. Coal-fired electricity output fell 18% to the lowest level since 1975 last year.
Biden has resisted a push by his party’s liberal wing to impose a nationwide ban on fracking. The drilling technique increases emissions of gases linked to climate change but supports jobs across the country and has allowed the United States to become the world’s top oil-and-gas producer. Biden also supports investing in coal communities by offering alternatives to mining work.
Trump put in motion a process to remove the United States, the world’s No. 2 emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, from the 2015 Paris agreement on climate that brought countries together to mitigate global warming, saying it was too costly.
Biden has said he brought China on board the Paris pact, a claim that has reportedly been disputed by some former Obama officials. Now Biden wants to make a diplomatic push to persuade China to stop financing coal plants through its belt-and-road initiative.