Joe Biden unveils $2tn clean-energy plan to boost US economy

Democrats' presidential candidate releases plan to fight climate change and spur economic growth

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a  "Build Back Better" Clean Energy event on July 14, 2020 at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware.  / AFP / Olivier DOULIERY

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday presented an ambitious climate plan in which $2 trillion would be invested in clean-energy infrastructure in his first term.

Mr Biden also pledged that the US would reach 100 per cent clean electricity by 2035.

The plan, which he revealed at a campaign event in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware, is a more aggressive approach to climate policy than he adopted in the presidential primaries.

It was a nod to progressives within the party who have been calling for swift action.

Mr Biden often refers to climate change as “an existential threat” and faced pressure from the left to adopt more sweeping policies.

His clean electricity target of 2035 is 15 years earlier than his original and was the goal set by two former presidential candidates, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and US Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Mr Biden also would spend money more quickly, calling for $2 trillion (Dh7.34tn) in new spending over four years, his campaign plan shows.

He originally suggested spending $1.7tn over a decade.

The plan would seek to boost the US car industry through incentives for makers to produce electric vehicles.

It would also look to build 1.5 million energy-efficient homes and public housing units.

Mr Biden has said his climate plan will help to spark a recovery in the nation's economy and create millions of new jobs, an effort in part to win over sceptical union workers in the oil and gas industries.

“It’s a false choice to suggest we have to pick between our economy and the planet,” he said at an online fundraiser on Monday.

Campaign advisers on Tuesday said the plan is a part of Mr Biden’s overall recovery policy, which they called the largest public investment package  since the Second World War.

President Donald Trump has often advocated huge infrastructure legislation but has not sent any outline to the US Congress.

Two Republican congressmen from energy-producing states, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, blasted Mr Biden’s proposal in a briefing held by the Trump campaign.

They accused him of pandering to the party's left and said that instead of boosting the economy, the plan would cost thousands of high-paying jobs and increase electricity prices.

They said middle and low-income families would bear the brunt.

The American Petroleum Institute, a trade group in Washington, suggested Mr Biden's plan could harm the oil and gas industry, forcing the US to import energy with lower environmental standards.

"You can’t address the risks of climate change without America’s natural gas and oil industry," said Mike Sommers, the institute's chief executive.

Mr Biden's plan would direct 40 per cent of clean-energy spending towards disadvantaged communities relying on refineries and power plants for work.

Many of his proposals could be introduced through executive orders, his aides said.

But the large-scale outlays would require congressional approval.