MEMO: President-elect Joe Biden is Already Acting on His Climate Mandate

TO:             Interested Parties
FROM:      John Podesta and Lori Lodes, Climate Power 2020
RE:             President-elect Joe Biden is Already Acting on His
                    Climate Mandate

For the first time in our history, climate played a consequential and decisive role in electing the next president of the United States. President-elect Joe Biden ran on climate and he won on climate with more than 78 million voters choosing his vision for an equitable, clean energy future.

This overwhelming support and record turnout is significant as Biden put climate at the forefront of his campaign — shaping his closing message to voters as a choice between bold climate action or science denial. And millions of voters responded to that choice, giving Biden a clear mandate on climate.

Biden is already acting. He’s made critical moves during the transition — including making the climate crisis one of four transition priorities and announcing one of his first actions would be to re-join the Paris climate agreement — to signal that his administration’s approach to the climate crisis will be both immediate and government-wide.

The importance of that action cannot be overstated. There has never been such a widespread and overt focus on the climate crisis from a presidential campaign or a president-elect.

Biden has both the political and moral mandate to act on climate. The young people, voters of color, and suburban women who fueled Biden’s victory are overwhelmingly climate voters and are demanding climate action.

In exit polls, Morning Consult found 3-in-4 Biden voters said addressing climate change was very important in deciding who they voted for in the presidential race, and both CNN and NBC News found that two-thirds of voters think climate change is a serious problem.

Even FOX News found that 72% of voters are concerned about climate and 70% of voters favor increasing government spending on green and renewable energy.

This support should leave no doubt that 2020 was a climate election, and the crisis and its impact on jobs, the economy, health, and justice will only continue to gain political importance as an increasing number of people across the country see climate action as a reason to vote.

The Biden-Harris administration is already acting on its climate mandate.

  • As Biden stated on Friday night after the election, voters have “given us a mandate for action on COVID, the economy, climate change, systemic racism.”
  • In his acceptance speech on Saturday, he promised action on the great challenges facing our country, including climate change. This elevated climate change in the same top-tier of political and policy issues as health care, coronavirus, racial justice, and the economy — the other issues he called out by name.
  • Climate change has also been a central focus of every single call Biden has had with world leaders. 
    • With President Emmanuel Macron of France, Biden discussed “tackling the threat of climate change,” according to a readout from the Biden team.
    • Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan and the president-elect discussed their “shared commitment to tackle climate change,” per a transition team readout. 
    • In his call with His Holiness Pope Francis, they discussed climate change, a priority of the Holy Father’s as climate change threatens to ravage the world’s poor. 

Biden promised “a transformational plan for a clean energy revolution.” He’s already making good on that commitment. 

  • One of the first commitments Biden made after the election was his promise to rejoin the Paris climate agreement on Day One of his administration.
  • The campaign is dubbing its approach to climate policy as government-wide. “From the very beginning of the campaign, when President-elect Biden rolled out his climate plan, he made it clear he sees this as an all-of-government agenda, domestic, economic, foreign policy,” said Stef Feldman, campaign policy director for Biden to The Washington Post.
  • This focus on climate will set the table for Biden to work aggressively with Congress to take action on clean energy investments, the creation of good-paying clean energy jobs, and conserving public lands — issues that enjoy bipartisan support.
  • Even without congressional action, Biden can take significant and decisive action to undo many of Trump’s most devastating rollbacks of safety and health protections related to climate. 
    • Reinstating these safeguards would have immediate impacts on the health of frontline communities and would significantly reduce emissions. 

Biden campaigned aggressively on climate and a record number of voters turned out for his vision of an equitable, clean energy future and gave Biden a mandate to act.

  • Biden won the election with more than 78 million votes — more votes than have ever been cast in American history.
  • Voters heard repeatedly from Biden about his bold plans for climate action and went to the ballot box knowing his clean energy vision for the country.
    • Biden campaigned on climate justice and bold action, putting forward the “most aggressive” climate plan in history, and arguing that climate is one of the 4 leading crises facing our nation, especially when delivering his closing argument to voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. 
    • Biden put climate front and center when communicating with voters. The Biden campaign ran 9 ads highlighting climate action with 3 focusing exclusively on climate, including an ad in a deeply red area of Michigan and two ads in the final week.
  • Climate voters — a coalition of younger voters, voters of color, and suburban women — were the key to Biden’s success in the battleground states Biden needed to win. 
  • Suburban voters turned out in large numbers for Biden in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and other key states where Biden successfully reframed climate change as the real threat to the suburbs
    • While Trump was convinced attacking Biden on climate was the magic bullet his campaign needed to win Pennsylvania, it was Pennsylvania voters who gave Biden the electoral votes needed to declare victory. 
    • Biden outperformed Secretary Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margin in 47 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, including in 7 of the counties with the most fracking, per a Climate Power 2020 analysis.
  • Biden made a strong appeal to younger voters after announcing his $2 trillion climate action plan, saying, “I want young climate activists, young people everywhere, to know: I see you. I hear you. I understand the urgency, and together we can get this done.”

 This may have been the first climate election it will not be the last.

  • The climate crisis is here, and we’re going to feel it increasingly more in our daily lives.
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) of voters say comprehensive climate legislation should be a priority for the next Congress and president in 2021, including about a third (34%) who say it should be a top priority.
  • If Republicans continue to stand in the way of climate progress, the coalition of climate voters — younger voters, Latino, Black, and Native voters, and suburban women — will hold them accountable as the impacts of the climate crisis continue to bear down on the country.