The climate change candidate just mapped out his first big proposal.
Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington who’s running in the 2020 presidential race on a climate change agenda, on Friday unveiled his plan to tackle the crisis, making him the second 2020 hopeful to do so.
In its first 10 years, Inslee’s plan would require:
- 100 percent of electricity will come from carbon-neutral power sources
- All new cars sold in the U.S. will be fully electric
- All new commercial and residential buildings will not contribute to carbon pollution.
Inslee’s plan also stipulates that by 2035 all electricity will be generated by zero-emission energy sources. (Carbon-neutral differs from zero-emission in that some carbon emissions still exist, which must be offset, such as by encouraging forestation.)
Inslee, 68, has been the governor of Washington since 2013, and while he is relatively unknown among the ever-growing pack of 2020 candidates, he has made a name for himself for being a leader against the climate crisis, even when it wasn’t such a popular cause. In his state, he launched the first-ever clean energy fund, passed a $16 billion transportation package that expanded development of green transportation, and helped pass a massive expansion of solar power in the state in 2017.
Inslee’s plan for the U.S. hinges on Congress passing a law that would overhaul the current production of electricity in the United States. Fossil fuels are currently responsible for about 60 percent of electricity in the U.S.
"The 100 Percent Clean Energy For America Plan will require a massive, full-scale mobilization of our federal government that will spur major innovation and deployment of clean energy," Inslee said in the policy proposal for his plan.
Inslee did not offer a price tag for his plan or any meaningful ways for how he would fund it, though 2020 Democrats have been pointing to taxes on the nation’s wealthiest to fund their ambitious proposals. Inslee did, however, note that Americans are already paying the price of climate change, which has cost the U.S. economy at least $240 billion each year since 2007 in the form of extreme-weather and health effects of fossil fuels, according to a recent report.
“We can choose between two roads: guaranteed economic decline from extreme weather, or increasing prosperity from a clean energy economy and low-cost, electrified transportation,” Inslee said. “Transitioning to 100 percent clean vehicles, buildings and electricity will free Americans from the stranglehold of rising gas prices and provide permanent savings on heating their homes.”
Inslee is the second 2020 candidate, after Beto O’Rourke, to announce a somewhat detailed course of action for attacking the climate crisis, which experts say will become irreversible in just 11 years. Recent polls indicate that climate change is among the top-tier issues for voters. So far, Inslee’s plan has received a positive reception from climate change activists.
The Sunrise Movement, a group of young climate activists who are coalescing around New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s idea for a Green New Deal, praised Inslee’s plan as a positive step in the right direction but said even more urgency was required. Most of the candidates have advocated for the idea of a Green New Deal, which calls for overhauling the U.S. economy to divest from fossil fuels and pour resources into green infrastructure and jobs.
“Importantly, Jay Inslee recognizes that … the U.S. needs to move faster than the rest of the world in tackling climate change, and needs to do it as fast as possible,” Sunrise said in a statement. “Still, we believe more urgency is necessary and hope that the Governor will continue to push the envelope.”
That’s a noticeably more positive reception than Sunrise gave to Beto O’Rourke, who flopped on his timeline for acting on climate change. O’Rourke’s $5 trillion plan, announced in the past week, calls for a flurry of executive actions right when he takes office to begin addressing climate change. Rather than relying on a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, O’Rourke would instead legally require the U.S. to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 — 20 years later than he originally said.
“This standard will send a clear price signal to the market while putting in place a mechanism that will ensure the environmental integrity of this endeavor — providing us with the confidence that we are moving at least as quickly as we need in order to meet a 2050 deadline,” O’Rourke’s proposal said.
The Sunrise Movement was not pleased with the deadline extension, even though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set that deadline.
“He released a detailed climate plan, his first policy proposal of his campaign. There’s a lot to like,” Varshini Prakash, the executive director and co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, wrote in a Guardian op-ed. “But he also pushed back the timeline to achieve net-zero emissions to 2050. Our movement was sad to see him let up on his ambition as he rolled out the specifics, before we even give it a try.”
Inslee, too, attacked O’Rourke’s plan. In a response to the proposal, Inslee said that O’Rourke had merely adopted some policies developed by his administration as Washington governor, such as the pursuit of greener transportation and restrictions on hydrofluorocarbon restrictions. Inslee also noted that O’Rourke had previously taken money from the oil and gas industry, despite a promise not to. O’Rourke has also supported a GOP bill that bolstered the fossil fuel industry.
"Beto O'Rourke will need to answer why he did not lead on climate change in Congress and why he voted on the side of oil companies to open up offshore drilling,” the Inslee campaign wrote.
Some climate experts were more forgiving of O’Rourke, noting that a 2030 net-zero deadline would be a Herculean lift. Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist and analyst with Carbon Brief, tweeted sector-by-sector how a 10-year deadline could radically affect the American economy.
“Reducing agricultural emissions to zero in 10 years would require forced dietary transitions away from red meat and dairy, as well as the slaughter of most existing herds of ruminants,” tweeted Hausfather, for one example.
Cover: In this photo taken Jan. 24, 2019, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee takes part in an Associated Press interview in his office at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)