Washington State Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee announced a $9 trillion Evergreen Economy Plan on May 16, his second major climate proposal. Inslee has put fighting climate change at the center of his campaign.
He seeks to create 8 million jobs over the next 10 years as the U.S. transitions to a carbon-neutral economy.
The 38-page plan focuses on five key strategies for economic growth: igniting America’s clean energy economy, building a sustainable and climate-smart infrastructure, leading the world in clean manufacturing, investing in innovation and scientific research, and ensuring good jobs.
“We need a full, complete, 100 percent mobilization of the United States economy to confront the climate crisis. Half measures will not do it. We did not ‘half’ win World War II,” said Inslee.
The climate guy
Inslee, who is polling at less than one percent, has attempted to distinguish himself from the other 20-something Democratic candidates by making climate change the key issue of his candidacy. Although a long shot to win, Inslee is attempting to drive the discourse on climate change in the primary. He has criticized other candidates, such as Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke, for failing to lead on the environment and called for a debate to focus exclusively on climate change.
“Inslee is the only candidate in the race who is treating climate change the way the science says climate change should be treated: not as one issue among many, but as the overriding emergency of our age,” wrote Vox Editor-at-Large Ezra Klein.
Since becoming governor in 2013, Inslee has established himself as a climate leader. In 2014, Inslee signed the Carbon Pollution Executive Order, which created a carbon emissions reduction taskforce and sought to eliminate electricity produced from coal. Along with Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and then-Governor Jerry Brown of California, Inslee formed the United States Climate Alliance following President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement in June 2017.
And in May, Inslee signed bills mandating 100 percent clean energy and banning fracking. He also announced his opposition to two proposed natural gas projects.
Inslee’s decision to oppose these gas infrastructure projects marked a reversal from his previous position. Some environmental groups had been critical of Inslee for his earlier stance.
“Gov. Inslee has spoken eloquently about the threat of climate change, but has failed to forcefully oppose fracking, and has even supported the construction of fracked-gas infrastructure right here in Washington State,” wrote Food & Water Action Regional Organizing Manager Thomas Meyer before Inslee decided to change course.
In his first major proposal, Inslee announced his 100% Clean Energy for America Plan. It calls for cutting U.S. emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by no later than 2045. Inslee also seeks to close all coal-fired plants by 2030 and ensure that new passenger cars, medium-duty trucks and buses are emission-free by 2030.
Nicole Ghio, Fossil Fuels Program Manager at Friends of the Earth Action, praised Inslee for being “committed to taking this fight to the national level.” She went on to say:
“Friends of the Earth Action looks forward to his forthcoming policies on environmental justice, agriculture, a just transition and jobs, and keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”
A bold path forward
Inslee’s plan offers a comprehensive approach to transition the United States to a carbon-neutral economy while sustaining economic growth.
He seeks to create a new federal financing authority to help fund clean energy projects, promote community-led energy transformation and support private sector investment in clean energy.
Inslee also calls for a modernized infrastructure system that will support zero-emission vehicles and expand public transit. And he wants to revamp regional electricity transmission and local distribution grid networks.
Through direct investment, tax incentives and public-private partnerships, Inslee plans to green the nation’s manufacturing sector. He intends to launch a national “Buy Clean” program to promote the procurement of environmentally-friendly materials, crack down on such super-pollutants as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and methane, and implement new standards for industrial efficiency and carbon intensity.
Another of Inslee’s goals is to reaffirm the United States’ status as a leader in scientific research and development by investing in clean energy research, agricultural innovations, transportation technologies, and industrial climate solutions.
In the coming weeks, Inslee has promised to introduce additional policies on environmental justice, agriculture, ending fossil fuel giveaways and protecting public lands.
Lauded by environmentalists
Inslee’s Evergreen Energy Plan received a positive response for its ambition and level of detail.
“Really powerful and comprehensive climate plan from @JayInslee–this charts a workable path forward,” wrote 350.org founder Bill McKibben on Twitter.
Greenpeace USA Climate Campaigner Charlie Jiang also weighed in:
“Inslee is right to recognize that moving off fossil fuels isn’t just imperative for our climate, it’s a massive economic opportunity. We have the chance right now to create millions of new, family-sustaining jobs in the renewable energy economy, a chance our next president cannot afford to pass up. Most importantly, Inslee’s plan recognizes that the workers being exploited by the fossil fuel industry and those on the frontlines of climate disasters should be the first to benefit.”
In a large field of Democratic candidates, Inslee offers much to ponder and praise on climate issues. They deserve the center stage that he has given them.