HAMPTON, N.H. ― Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) defended his record as an advocate for stronger environmental protections on Monday, responding to a report that he plans to take a “middle ground” on solutions to climate change.
Biden, who’s competing to be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, brought up the matter unprompted during a speech to a crowd of hundreds at a pizza restaurant in New Hampshire’s seacoast region.
As evidence of his green bona fides, Biden cited an article on the fact-checking site PolitiFact that supported his claims and called him a “climate change pioneer” in Congress.
“I said that I was in this area long before most anybody else was and I have a record. And they basically said ... ‘Biden’s right. He’s been a leader on climate change,’” Biden told the crowd.
The article noted that Biden introduced a bill, which became law in 1987, requiring the president to set up a task force to address climate change.
Biden went on to enumerate some of the renewable energy initiatives he helped enact alongside former President Barack Obama, whom he referred to as “Barack” throughout his remarks. Those policies included $90 billion in renewable energy investment and an increase in automobile fuel mileage standards.
“We do need to finish this green revolution in a way that’s rational,” he concluded. “We can do it, afford it and get it done now.”
However, in his remarks, Biden did not explicitly say that he is not pursuing a “middle ground.”
It is difficult to know exactly what such an approach would mean in practice without a detailed policy plan. Biden said Monday that his campaign would release such a plan by the end of the month.
Reuters reported Friday that Biden is preparing to introduce a climate plan aimed at attracting blue-collar workers who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. The report is based on conversations with two Biden advisers, including Heather Zichal, a former adviser to Obama who until last year sat on the board of a liquified natural gas exporter.
Shortly thereafter, Biden’s presidential primary rivals seized on the report as a way to distinguish themselves from Biden, who currently leads in the polls. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) all expressed their disagreement with the notion of a “middle ground” approach, which they argued failed to treat the threat of climate change with adequate seriousness.