Gov. Jay Inslee releases most hard-hitting climate plan of all presidential hopefuls

Photo: Jovelle Tamayo/ Washington Post

Late last week, Washington governor Jay Inslee put out a 38-page plan for how the next president of the United States should tackle climate change. Inslee described his vision via the Evergreen Economy Plan as a “comprehensive vision to build a clean energy economy that will create 8 million good jobs during the next 10 years. The plan catalyzes roughly $9 trillion of investment — with at least $300 billion in average annual federal spending leveraging approximately $600 billion more each year — in American industries and manufacturing, infrastructure, skilled labor, and new technology deployment.”

The 5-point plan calls for:

1. “Igniting America’s clean energy economy”

This effort includes: establishing a ReBuild America Initiative to upgrade millions of buildings over the next two-plus decades; a $90 billion Green Bank for clean energy deployment; a Next Generation Rural Electrification Initiative; programs to support energy democracy and community-led energy transformation; and grants in lieu of tax incentives for clean energy installation.

2. “Building sustainable & climate-smart infrastructure”

Inslee hopes to double investment in public transit, dramatically expand electric car-charging infrastructure, and launch a Clean Water for All Initiative to close the $82 billion annual funding gap in critical drinking water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.

3. “Leading the world in clean manufacturing”

Inslee envisions that the federal government will partner with industry to increase efficiency, cut costs and waste, and deploy new technologies and fuels to reduce climate pollution. That includes: making major investments in domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries; establishing a federal “Buy Clean” Program to help close the carbon loophole and support domestic industries and workers; creating a new Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit; and utilizing entities such as the Export-Import Bank to increase exports of made-in-America clean energy solutions.

4. “Investing in innovation and scientific research”

This part of the plan will increase U.S. clean energy and climate solutions research investment to $35 billion each year, more than 5 times the current funding. This investment boost will marshal the resources of the federal government, states, universities and private sector innovators to confront the climate challenge. The plan also supports innovation in the agricultural sector through a new ARPA-Ag effort and a Next Generation Rural Clean Energy Extension Service.

5. “Ensuring good union jobs with family supporting wages and benefits​”

This plan will reunionize and empower workers in every industry with new tools to collectively bargain, challenge racial and gender inequality, and close the gap in wealth and prosperity. It includes: enacting a “G.I. Bill” for impacted fossil fuel workers and communities; repealing the Taft-Hartley Act provisions that allow so-called “Right-to-Work” laws; redoubling commitment to national apprenticeship programs and creating and enforcing protections for gender pay equity.

As the Huffington Post explained, “The breadth is stunning, with few problems left untouched. The plan includes specifics on everything from national parks to drinking water, “ultra-high-speed” rail to electric scooters, climate literacy education to a new Climate Conservation Corps. The proposal spells out exactly how an Inslee administration would expand collective bargaining rights and bolster wage growth in ways unseen since the threat of communist revolution loomed large in the minds of America’s elites a lifetime ago.”

Insee told the Huffington Post in a comment that “The thing that can really cost is the path of inaction, the path of letting Paradise, California, keep burning down, the path of letting Davenport, Iowa, keep flooding, the path of letting Miami be inundated.”

Why This Matters: While Beto O’Rourke put out a climate plan, Joe Biden has hinted at one, and Elizabeth Warren has called for our military to combat climate change, Insee’s plan is the most comprehensive one to date of all the presidential hopefuls. Inslee directly referenced President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as the inspiration for a massive call to action in the 21st century but made it clear that his vision is that of public-private partnerships–something that the Green New Deal didn’t explicitly state. The Clean Energy for America Plan component  of the plan calls for 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2030, and a fully clean, renewable and zero-emission electricity sector by 2035--as Vox stated, “To put it bluntly, Inslee’s campaign is writing a Green New Deal.” Even one of the Green New Deal’s chief architects, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, had nothing but praise for Inslee’s plan. In a crowded field of Democratic contenders for the White House, Inslee threw down the gauntlet for climate action plans that will hopefully signal to all other candidates that they must be prepared with real solutions and not just talking points. 

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