This weekend, President-elect Biden launched his transition, which highlighted four priority policy areas: beating COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.
Each of these alone represent urgent tasks for the American people and the new incoming administration, but just one looms largest as an existential threat to the continued viability and habitability of our planet: climate change. Addressing it must be a top priority for Biden and his team.
To do so, the administration should commit to funding a nonprofit clean energy Accelerator—based on the proven green bank model that invests resources into clean energy projects across the country. To get this done, Biden will need to wrangle with a divided Congress to get legislation passed.
Luckily, Congress has already shown it supports this idea. The clean energy Accelerator would be based on the National Climate Bank Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support this year. It’s a smart, one-time investment that will pay dividends for years to come.
A nonprofit Accelerator will create 500,000 jobs with strong labor protections for every $10 billion of public capitalization, across seven sectors of infrastructure. Because it pairs public dollars with private sector dollars, this model allows for an outsized impact.
Biden’s stated climate plans overlap significantly with the benefits on offer from a clean energy Accelerator. On the issue of infrastructure, his plan calls for the creation of “millions of good, union jobs rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.”
On the auto industry, Biden calls for the creation of “1 million new jobs in the American auto industry, domestic auto supply chains, and auto infrastructure, from parts to materials to electric vehicle charging stations” and more. An Accelerator will provide financing to businesses and consumers to adopt electric vehicles, spurring demand for American manufacturing.
On transit, Biden wants to “provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options through flexible federal investments.” A clean energy Accelerator will finance conversion of public vehicle fleets, including busses, to electric vehicles, using innovative EV-fleet-as-service models to overcome adoption barriers.
In the power sector, Biden wants to “move ambitiously to generate clean, American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.” An Accelerator will mobilize private sector investment into multiple forms and applications of renewable power, including distributed solutions, in order to increase renewable power market share six-fold, which is required to reach the 2035 target.
When it comes to how Americans heat and power their homes and businesses, Biden has called for us to “upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over four years … by funding direct cash rebates and low-cost financing.” A Accelerator is the best practical means of accomplishing this goal, by working with lenders, housing agencies, weatherization partners and others to make buildings more comfortable with lower energy costs overall.
On housing, Biden wants to “spur the construction of 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units.” A Accelerator will finance home electrification efforts to ensure new buildings are built to be sustainable from the ground up.
On agriculture and conservation, Biden wants to “create jobs in climate-smart agriculture, resilience, and conservation.” A Accelerator is specifically authorized to invest in natural climate solutions in forestry and agriculture, and can invest based on the necessary decades-long time horizon to make these projects work.
And on environmental justice, Biden’s goal is to “ensure that environmental justice is a key consideration in where, how, and with whom we build—creating good, union, middle-class jobs in communities left behind.” A Accelerator will have a specific mandate to direct 40 percent of its investment into underserved, frontline and communities of color, and as a nonprofit has particular capabilities to target investment into specific communities.
Every one of these goals is important for creating jobs, for climate and for justice. And every one of them needs a practical, proven and fast-moving implementation strategy to actually get the job done. The Accelerator, based on a decade of green bank experience, is the no-regrets policy needed to achieve these goals. Throughout his time in public service, Biden has sought to bring policymaking in line with his—and our—ideals of what this country can be when it is at its best. Now, as president-elect, he has another opportunity to do so through a new clean energy Accelerator.