Former Vice President Joe Biden said he looks at climate change as an opportunity, not just a problem.
In a week where flooding ravaged Western Iowa, students across the state participated in the climate strike and youth involved in the Sunrise Movement hosted presidential candidate forums, Biden addressed Iowa’s most pressing concern at a town hall in Cedar Rapids on Friday: climate change. Afterward, the candidate spoke with Iowa Starting Line about how the issue affects the state.
“The investments I call for being made, $400 billion dollars in finding new technologies to be able to deal with climate change, will also create up to 10 million new jobs,” Biden said. “We have to invest so much effort and money in dealing with climate change. It’s real. It’s consequential.”
Biden’s climate strategy aims to speak directly to the state’s farmers and rural communities.
His climate policy agenda is aimed at boosting rural economies, in part, by expanding a program that will pay farmers to participate in carbon farming — a set of cover crops and farming methods that helps trap carbon in the soil.
“I think it’s critically important that farmers be given the opportunity to be part of the solution,” Biden said. “There’s a lot of things we can do to encourage farmers to conserve more and deal with conservation in a way that they get rewarded for having done it.”
One of the candidate’s largest climate policy investments would bring low-carbon manufacturing jobs to rural areas.
“[Farmers] have to be in on the discussion. Just like laborers have to be in on the discussion. But we have to bring all these folks together because they all know what’s in their own vital interests,” Biden said. “We have to get people talking to one another, and dealing with the things that they know have to be done, but in a way that’s equitable for them.”
The candidate’s climate policy is also focused on natural disaster relief and rebuilding sustainable infrastructure, which should help boost the local economies of places like Iowa. Biden has a proposal for green infrastructure in response to natural disasters, like the floods that devastated the state during the past six months.
“We have to rebuild not to what it was before, but rebuild to a sustainable level that it won’t happen again if the same thing occurs, the damage will not occur,” Biden said.
While all of the major Democratic presidential contenders have put forth climate plans during the campaign, it can sometimes be difficult for the lay person to fully understand the differences. Biden noted his differentiates in two major ways — expediency and international partnerships.
“One, I move immediately to deal with a number of problems that relate particularly to areas of transportation,” he said. “We can significantly reduce the amount of carbon emitted as a consequence of what we do in terms of milage standards, in terms of building 500,000 by 2030 electric vehicles … creating millions of jobs and becoming the leader in electric vehicles around the world. Exporting that technology to grow the economy.”
He pointed back to his long record on climate action, including the comprehensive plan he put out in 1986, and his history of dealing with leaders around the world.
“You have to engage the rest of the world — we make up 15 percent of the problem,” Biden said. “I would rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, which we put together, and secondly, I would call within the first 100 days a meeting of all the major nations of the world to up the ante of what we have to do. And make it clear that those nations who aren’t participating and keeping their commitment would in fact pay a price for doing that.”
To pay for his plan, the former Vice President intends to eliminate a tax cut that current President Donald Trump put forward to benefit the top one percent. He said he would also raise the top tax rate back to what it was before Trump and close a number of tax loopholes.
“We can raise billions of dollars just by doing those things,” Biden said.
As a global problem, the candidate thinks he’s uniquely qualified to tackle climate.
Biden mentioned in his town hall he’s “lived and breathed” foreign policy for years and that he has met every leader of the world’s major nations.
“We have to have worldwide help on this. Because 85 percent of the problem is over there.”
by Isabella Murray