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Biden unveils $1.7 trillion climate plan, paid for by reversing Trump corporate tax cuts

Key Points
  • former Vice President Joe Biden releases a plan to address climate change.
  • The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate wants to reverse Republican corporate tax cuts to invest $1.7 trillion in clean energy research and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Some of Biden's rivals have already released climate-change plans and criticized Biden for reports that he would take a "middle ground" approach.
Former U.S. Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign kickoff rally, May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a plan Tuesday to put $1.7 trillion into clean energy research and infrastructure overhauls, funded by rolling back Republican corporate tax cuts.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate aims to use that federal investment to spur more than $5 trillion in state, local and private money for measures to address climate change, his campaign said. Biden would push for net-zero emissions by 2050, reenter the Paris climate accords and ban new oil and gas permits on public lands and waters.

"As president, I will lead America and the world, not only to confront the crisis in front of us, but to seize the opportunities it presents," Biden said in a video accompanying the plan's release.

The proposal comes as Democrats call for drastic action to address a warming planet in the face of natural disasters that have battered parts of the country. While Biden has not embraced the sweeping Green New Deal plan as some of his competitors have, he called it "a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face."

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Biden, the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, has faced backlash from his rivals after Reuters reported that he would release a "middle ground" climate plan. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who has trailed Biden in most early primary polls, said Sunday that Democrats should not settle for the "middle ground" and "have to go forward with a new and progressive agenda."

Some of Biden's competitors have already unveiled proposals to combat climate change, which has increasingly become a priority for voters.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — who has made climate change the signature issue of his presidential campaign — released a plan to achieve zero emissions for certain new vehicles and eliminate carbon pollution for all commercial and residential buildings by 2030. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke has also called for $5 trillion in new investments to address climate change.

Biden's plan would reinstate Obama administration rules rolled back by the Trump administration, such as car fuel economy standards and methane emissions regulations. It would also boost mechanisms to crack down on polluting companies, which the Biden campaign said "disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities."

The former vice president's campaign said it will fund clean energy research "by reversing the excesses of the Trump tax cuts for corporations, reducing incentives for tax havens, evasion and outsourcing, ensuring corporations pay their fair share, closing other loopholes in our tax code that reward work not wealth, and ending subsidies for fossil fuels."

Democratic presidential candidates have said they would reverse parts of the 2017 GOP tax cuts to fund projects from infrastructure overhauls to child care and savings accounts for newborn children.

Groups such as the Sunrise Movement, a leading proponent of the Green New Deal, had pushed Biden for more drastic action on climate change. In a statement, Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said the "pressure worked" as Biden "put out a comprehensive climate plan that cites the Green New Deal."

"Still, we need even more ambition from candidates if we're serious about saving millions of people from death before entire nations sink into the sea," Prakash added.

Democrats more broadly have aimed to cast themselves as better equipped to address the threat of climate change than President Donald Trump, who they say has not taken the issue seriously enough. Michael Brune, executive director of the environmental group Sierra Club, said Tuesday that "while Donald Trump abandons global leadership and buries his head in the sand, Democrats continue to lead the charge in presenting comprehensive plans to tackle the climate crisis."

Trump has touted efforts to boost U.S. oil and gas production — two energy sources from which many Democrats want to wean the U.S. The president and Republicans in Congress have also repeatedly slammed the Green New Deal as a costly government intervention that would burden on the U.S. economy.

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