Beto Elevates Climate Change To Center Stage for Dems

Climate change has finally arrived as a top tier issue in the 2020 Presidential campaign.  On Monday, with California’s Yosemite National Park as the backdrop, Beto O’Rourke became the first of the top tier Democratic hopefuls to make tackling the climate crisis a centerpiece of his Presidential campaign.  Though O’Rourke did not reference the Green New Deal specifically —  he posted on his web site a four-point plan with specific and detailed actions under each — with the explicit “guarantee” of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and a price tag at $5 Trillion.

  • Executive Actions Beginning on Day 1 including rejoining the Paris Accord, re-instating many Obama Administration policies, and with a few new ideas like using in federal purchasing standards to require government contractors to decarbonize across all sectors for the first time, including a new “buy clean” program for steel, glass, and cement.
  • Spend $5 Trillion to improve infrastructure and community resilience, and to fund research to spur innovation — and “funded with the revenues generated by structural changes to the tax code that ensure corporations and the wealthiest among us pay their fair share and that we finally end the tens of billions of dollars of tax breaks currently given to fossil fuel companies.”
  • “Guarantee” of Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 and halfway there by 2030 — and to give the guarantee some teeth he will call on “Congress to enact a legally enforceable standard — within his first 100 days” which he believes will then send a “clear price signal to the market” so that the private sector will start to move more quickly in to cut its carbon emissions.
  • Defend Communities that are Preparing for and Fighting Extreme Weather by both ensuring that communities have grants to mitigate climate risks, and to ensure that when communities rebuild after disaster strikes they do it in a way that is more resilient

Many environmental group leaders praised O’Rourke, including the League of Conservation Voters, which described it as “an ambitious and detailed climate plan that would start on day one of his presidency,” and Greenpeace USA which said his plan makes “an important contribution to the national effort to boldly tackle the climate crisis,” according to ABC News.  The Sunrise Movement, was critical because they claimed that O’Royrke’s plan “walks back” a commitment they say he made to net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and they also criticized him for failing to take the pledge refusing to take money from fossil fuel companies and their employees.

Why This Matters: O’Rourke’s plan is entirely consistent with the Green New Deal resolution itself, which calls for, “(A) global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and (B) net-zero global emissions by 2050.” The “guarantee” of net zero emissions is a bit of an overstatement since it relies on an act of Congress to make it real.  And the $5 Trillion is optimistic because it relies on $1.5 Trillion in state and local funds and $2 Trillion in private sector funding, in addition to $1.5 Trillion in federal funds (which is less than the cost to the federal government as the Trump Tax cuts, BTW).  But at $5 Trillion, this is a reasonable price tag that rebuts the ridiculous Republican claims that an effort like this will cost tens of trillions of dollars, making it completely unaffordable.  Most importantly, this plan puts climate change squarely in the conversation of top tier political issues in 2020.  It contains many of the same goals as the Green New Deal resolution (which is just a framework not a set of policy proposals), but provides many more specifics and so it moves the debate on the issue forward.  Now we hope the other candidates who “support” the Green New Deal will follow suit and come forward with their proposals on how to meet the climate challenge.

To Go Deeper:  You can watch me (Monica) discuss O’Rourke’s proposal on MSNBC’s Velshi & Ruhle yesterday.  And you can read a great summary by Axios of all the candidates’ statements on the Green New Deal by clicking here.

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