Joe Biden Defends Record on Climate and Calls for ‘Environmental Revolution’

HAMPTON, N.H. — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. defended his record on climate change on Monday in the face of criticism from rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and called for a “green revolution” that is “rational” and affordable.

During his first campaign swing in New Hampshire since entering the race for president, Mr. Biden also said that breaking up big technology companies such as Facebook is “something we should take a really hard look at,” and derided President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods.

Speaking at a New Hampshire pizza restaurant, Mr. Biden pledged to deliver “a major speech in detail” by the end of May outlining his environmental priorities. That promise followed an article by Reuters in which one person advising Mr. Biden described him as seeking a middle ground in the fight against the planet’s warming. The Biden campaign said that characterization was inaccurate, but liberal activists and candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont questioned his boldness on climate.

Mr. Biden, echoing the language of revolution used by Mr. Sanders, said Monday that the nation needed “environmental revolution” and dismissed the Reuters article by citing a PolitiFact assessment of his work on the issue. The fact-checking outlet ruled last week that he had, in fact, introduced the first bill addressing climate change in the 1980s.

“I said, we have an existential threat, we are in a situation where, if we don’t act quickly, we’re going to basically lose almost everything we have,” Mr. Biden said. “And that’s exactly the case. It’s even more urgent now.”

Since joining the 2020 race last month, Mr. Biden has remained largely above the Democratic fray, but on Monday he was clearly rebutting rivals like Mr. Sanders. He is currently one of Mr. Biden’s strongest competitors, especially here in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the 2020 nomination contest.

Mr. Sanders appeared to criticize Mr. Biden when he tweeted Friday that “there is no ‘middle ground’ when it comes to climate policy.” Mr. Sanders was set to appear at a Green New Deal rally Monday evening in Washington.

Polls show that combating climate change is a top concern for Democratic primary voters. Mr. Biden has generally led the early polls in the Democratic field, but he faces skepticism from the left wing of his party over parts of his decades-long record, including on criminal justice and abortion rights.

On Monday he sought to emphasize that he has a history of championing the environment. He detailed efforts that he and former President Barack Obama took to protect the environment, while also aiming to strike a balance between tough rhetoric and his more centrist record and political instincts.

“We do need, we do need to face this green revolution,” he said, “in a way that’s rational, we can do it, afford it, and get it done now.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Biden raised the possibility of breaking up tech companies like Facebook. His remark was a nod to another issue that animates parts of the progressive base, and several Democratic presidential candidates — most prominently, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have been vocal advocates of more aggressively regulating major technology companies.

And as he worked his way through a crowd of voters, shaking hands and posing for selfies, Mr. Biden gave a somewhat meandering response to a reporter’s question about tariffs as the trade war between the United States and China intensifies.

“The way we have to proceed is, we have to have our allies with us,” Mr. Biden said, criticizing President Trump for increasing “the debt and the trade deficit.”

“It’s not just us,” Mr. Biden said. “We have to keep the rest of the world together.”

He added that “labor should be at the table,” and he blasted China for “the way in which they steal our intellectual property.”

“The only people who are paying a price are farmers and working people right now,” Mr. Biden continued. “He’s going about it all the wrong way.”

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