by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
On paper, Joe Biden has the most aggressive plan to address climate change ever proposed by a Democratic nominee.
But liberal climate activists, many of them young supporters of rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders dejected by his loss, see Biden’s pitch as too generic and vague, and his delivery uninspiring.
These activists aim to exert pressure on Biden during his campaign for the general election, pushing him to add detail to his headline target of the United States using 100% carbon-free energy by 2050 and to set bolder near-term targets to make progress on weaning off fossil fuels.
“The Biden plan is the most ambitious climate plan any nominee has ever put forward, including Bernie in 2016,” said Bracken Hendricks, a former senior climate policy adviser in the presidential campaign of Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington. “With that said, the climate crisis is worse and moving more rapidly, so the urgency of the moment is changing the debate.”
While Biden assembled a broad primary coalition of older suburban and blue-collar voters, along with African Americans, climate activists say he’ll need turnout and enthusiasm from young voters to beat President Trump.
“There is a generational divide in this country that’s very real,” said Brandon Hurlbut, a former campaign adviser for Obama’s 2008 campaign and the chief of staff at the Energy Department. Hurlbut volunteered in 2020 for the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren but is backing Biden now. “The Democratic Party must be responsive to young voters’ desire for aggressive action on climate now,” he said.
Biden is aware of his enthusiasm problem with young climate voters who supported Sanders.
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