Biden’s Climate Plan Falls Short for Progressives

Zoe Mello Zdraveski, Contributing Writer

In March of 2020, President Joe Biden rolled out a $2.26 trillion infrastructure and climate spending blueprint, in which the administration plans to pay for over 15 years through higher taxes on corporations. The American Jobs Plan includes $85 billion allocated to the modernization of US transit systems, $174 billion in incentive programs aimed at promoting the development of electric vehicles, and $180 billion on research programs. Nonetheless, legislators assert that its spending is nowhere near sufficient to meet the global and national challenges of rampant unemployment and the impending climate crisis. 

According to a 2019 report by the Roosevelt Institute, in order to decarbonize the US economy, public investment would need to rise to the level of about three to five percent of the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  The spending outlined in Biden’s bill would amount to only roughly one percent of the GDP per year. Ocasio-Cortez, a leader in the movement for the Green New Deal, commented, “The important context here is that it’s $2.25T spread out over 10 years. For context, the COVID package was $1.9T for this year alone, with some provisions lasting two years. Needs to be way bigger.” 

The American Jobs Plan may be nowhere near a comprehensive climate solution, but is undoubtedly a large step towards a greater, greener America. 

While many conservatives are no doubt already critical of the hefty price tag, progressive organizations such as the Sunrise Movement and People’s Action both underlined that even a right-leaning Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, has called for up to $4 trillion in spending on infrastructure. Moreover, he is considered a key obstacle to advancing more progressive bills in the just barely Democratically controlled Senate. Ellen Sciales, press secretary of the Sunrise Movement emphasized that “if $3 trillion is what Biden’s team lands on, they’ll be neglecting what’s politically and publicly popular, and what’s quite frankly vital for the future of our society and our planet.” Despite the fact that Biden has promised to slash carbon emissions by 50% and comprehensively decarbonize the electricity sector, critics fear his plan may not truly accomplish those goals. Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, stated that “President Biden’s industry-friendly infrastructure plan squanders one of our last, best chances. Instead of a Marshall Plan approach that moves our economy to renewable energy, it includes gimmicky subsidies for carbon capture, fantastically wishes the free market will save us and fails to take crucial and ambitious steps toward phasing out fossil fuels.”

The Biden Administration has been criticized for attempting to pander to a Republican party that has made clear its lack of intention to engage in any sort of bipartisan, across-the-aisle legislative process in the months since the 2020 election. Others have suggested that the very existence of the plan implicates Biden’s move away from appealing to centrists and attempting to appease the core of his base thanks to pressure from leftist organizations like Sunrise. In the words of Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash, “The pressure worked. We forced them to backtrack and today, he put out a comprehensive climate plan that cites the Green New Deal and names climate change as the greatest challenge facing America and the world.”