Jay Inslee on Friday released the first piece of his presidential campaign’s climate strategy, calling for dramatically cutting the climate pollution from buildings, electricity, and vehicles, as well as ending US coal, all by 2030.
When the Washington governor launched his presidential bid in March, he pitched himself as the “only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority.” Several Democratic presidential contenders have since said they would prioritize climate action on their first day in the White House. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke made this claim this week when he released his own detailed climate policy.
Inslee is looking to regain the climate-candidate mantle with his new climate proposal. “It won’t just be something I do on the first day; it will be something I’m committed to every day,” Inslee told BuzzFeed News.
“There may be candidates who have in the last few days recognized that climate change is a real problem, and I think that is great,” Inslee said, but “this is something I’ve been committed to most of my professional life.”
In seemingly a first for the 21-person Democratic field, Insee has proposed retiring all US coal plants by 2030. “It is clear we need to end our dependence on coal-based electricity. That is a scientific certainty,” Inslee said. He said his plan would include provisions to help move coal workers to other work, saying, “We have to be exquisitely embracing of them as we go through this transition.”
Washington state has offered a template for how to do this, according to Inslee, creating a $55 million fund for the community surrounding the state’s last coal plant, Centralia Big Hanaford power plant, which is set to retire in 2025.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump in 2016 campaigned on saving the coal industry. As president, his administration has loosened coal regulations and claimed to have ended the so-called war on coal. But even these efforts have not stopped the shuttering of coal plants nationwide in the face of cheaper energy sources, such as natural gas.
“No one doubts that Gov. Inslee is going to make this his top priority as president,” Jigar Shah — cofounder and president of Generate Capital, a finance firm focused on various sectors, including renewable energy — told BuzzFeed News. “Gov. Inslee is setting the standard for what it’s going to take to become the Democratic nominee on climate issues.”
Inslee has also proposed creating a national 100% clean electricity standard, with a goal of dramatically curbing emissions by 2030 and then requiring the nation to use and deliver electricity that generates zero emissions by 2035. This proposal largely parallels the 100% clean electricity bill that passed Washington’s state legislature last month.
Inslee’s plan also calls to achieve 100% zero emissions in new vehicles and 100% zero carbon in new buildings through a mix of executive power, new legislation, tax incentives, and expanding existing government programs. For example, Inslee is proposing to build more solar and other clean energy projects on public lands; eliminate the use of coal, fuel oil, and natural gas in new and renovated federal buildings; and replace the federal government’s own fleet of cars to be greener.
“I’ve never seen a 100% standard for cars. I have never seen a 100% standard for buildings. So this is really exciting,” R.L. Miller, cofounder of the political climate group Climate Hawks Vote, told BuzzFeed News.
As part of the proposal, Inslee aims to have the US achieve net-zero emissions, meaning the country would no longer emit more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it pulls out, by 2045 at the latest. O’Rourke’s climate plan calls for net-zero emissions by 2050.
Voters, Inslee said, ”are looking for leadership, and that means someone who can give them both an inspiration and goal. I think I suit that role very well … because of the vision I’ve been creating now over a decade — not something I just dreamed up in the last 72 hours when I decided to run for president.”
Inslee’s dedication to climate predates his campaign run. He helped launch the US Climate Alliance, a collective of governors committing their states to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement, and has repeatedly criticized President Trump’s anti-climate policies. He’s helped push through climate legislation in Washington state, seeing a wave of success this year after failures in the past, and wrote a book on climate change.