Joe Biden’s climate grand slam is undoing Trump’s foul play

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Pressing the climate fight on an essential new front, the Biden administration set new standards Thursday to end the age of unbridled carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants.

The rules will cut, at last, carbon emissions from the single largest industrial source, driving down climate risk and driving up clean energy investment.

That caps a climate action grand slam for President Biden. 

In addition to cleaning up the power sector, he’s championed powerful incentives to spur a heartland manufacturing renaissance with clean energy at its core, set rules to cut emissions of the climate super-pollutant, methane and created new standards to cut carbon dioxide and other pollution from cars and trucks.

Taken together, and done right, these measures position the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. With increased federal, state and corporate ambition, we can cut that pollution in half by then, as the science says we must.

That’s a far cry from where things stood when Biden took office.

He inherited a climate policy rent to ruin by a reckless science denier whose fealty to fossil fuels set the country back a generation or more in the existential fight of our time.

Biden responded by delivering a clear-eyed strategic package of incentives and standards that have transformed the nation from a climate laggard to a global leader in the do-or-die mission to leave our children a livable world.

There’s more to be done, of course. The new power plant rules, for example, will cut emissions from coal-fired units and new gas-fired systems, but not from existing gas-burning plants. The pollution from those plants, too, must be addressed, and soon.

No one expected to overcome in four years a climate crisis many decades in the making. Biden, though, has been the strongest climate leader in history. He’s earned a second term to advance the work he’s begun. 

The alternative, after all, isn’t some invincible climate avenger who might end the crisis with a wave of a hand. The alternative is Donald Trump.

It can be hard to know where Trump stands on any actual policy issue. Not so the climate crisis. 

As president, Trump withdrew U.S. participation from the global climate regimen embodied in the 2015 Paris Agreement, turning this country into a climate outlier at odds with most of the world. If elected in November, Trump insists, he’ll do so again.

Biden returned the nation to the Paris process and has drawn on domestic climate action to lead by example. 

That matters. U.S. climate leadership is an important reason why nearly 200 nations agreed in global climate talks last December to triple wind and solar power and double energy efficiency by 2030 and, in the longer term, to transition away from fossil fuels.

In the coming weeks, the United States will join other nations in mapping out ambitious climate goals for the decade ahead. A second Biden term can set the country on the path to achieving those goals, not breaking its promise, once more, by repudiating them, as Trump has vowed to do.

Trump spent four years repealing commonsense rules crafted to clean up carbon pollution from cars, trucks and power plants.

Biden has put new standards in place to address that pollution. Those standards must be implemented, and likely defended in court, not repealed, as Trump has pledged to do.

Trump sowed public distrust in climate science. He routinely omitted or blocked the publication of government data on the impact of climate change on natural disasters, buried studies identifying ways to strengthen power grid reliability by speeding the growth of wind and solar power and shut down efforts by the U.S. military to analyze the impacts of climate change on force readiness and operations. 

Biden has grounded effective action in what the science tells us about the climate disasters cascading before our eyes.

Last year alone, the hottest on record, dangerous heat waves put two-thirds of the United States at risk, drought sent the Mississippi River to record lows and wildfires burned enough land across Canada to cover the state of Oklahoma. 

All of that, and more, gets worse unless we press the fight to break our dependence on fossil fuels and invest in a clean energy future. Biden’s driving a strategy to make it happen — and it’s working.

In a challenge this difficult, nobody pitches a perfect game. When he’s erred, Biden’s been called to account.

On climate, though, the United States is in a completely different place than it was when he took office. He’s earned the chance to finish what he’s begun.

Manish Bapna is president of the NRDC Action Fund. 

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