Jay Inslee, the Washington governor now running for president, is proposing $9 trillion in new climate-related investment over the next decade as part of his sweeping climate change policy, one that goes further in detail and ambition than climate plans from any other 2020 presidential candidate.
The “Evergreen Economy Plan” is Inslee’s second climate proposal this month, offering fresh details and price tags that expand upon the broad goals laid out in the first plan. There are even more policies to come in the future, according to Inslee’s campaign.
“Our first was based on the standards that we need to set, and the second is a very robust, bold, and comprehensive plan on how to meet those standards,” Inslee told BuzzFeed News.
“An essential part of the theory on this is we want all Americans to have a chance to prosper, have a healthy future, and that includes those in some of the older industries as we’re transitioning to the future,” he said.
In early May, Inslee proposed shuttering all US coal plants by 2030 and pledged to support the coal workers whose jobs would disappear and the communities they live in. The new proposal explains exactly how he will do that, pitching a “GI Bill” to ensure retirement and health benefits for workers in the coal, oil, and other industries who could be jobless if the US quickly transitions away from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy. Moreover, these workers and their communities would be offered education and training to pursue work in other sectors.
President Donald Trump campaigned on reviving the coal industry, and his administration has loosened several coal regulations. His son Donald Trump Jr. recently knocked Inslee’s anti-coal rhetoric.
US coal plants are still retiring in the face of cheaper energy alternatives. Since Trump was elected in November 2016, about 50 coal plants have announced retirement plans, according to the Sierra Club environmental group. Relatedly, a number of US coal companies have declared bankruptcy, and some have proposed cutting workers’ health insurance and pensions in the process.
Inslee’s plan also seeks to reward people looking to contribute to the greener economy with good jobs. Specifically, he is advocating for jobs, including through publicly funded projects, that would pay at least $25 per hour, and he supports union jobs and expanding collective bargaining rights for unions.
“We want to create good-paying union jobs, not just any jobs,” Inslee said.
The proposal’s emphasis on livable wages, as well as environmental justice, mirrors elements of the Green New Deal proposal championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Congress. But Inslee’s plan makes no direct reference to the Green New Deal, although there is a comparison to President Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal from the 1930s.
Other notable components of Inslee’s new 38-page policy proposal includes investing $35 billion in clean energy and climate solutions research, a big increase over current levels; creating a $90 billion "Green Bank" at the federal level to help finance clean energy development; phasing out potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, in line with global agreements; proposing federal agencies get all of their domestic energy production from clean energy sources and purchase only zero-emission vehicles by 2024.
To pay for it all, Inslee proposes a federal investment of about $300 billion a year, which his campaign anticipates will generate an additional $600 billion a year in outside funding. This adds up to $9 trillion in total investment over a decade.
“This is one of the most comprehensive plans I've seen in the political context,” Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told BuzzFeed News in an email. Some of the more novel elements of the proposal, according to Gerrard, include setting a national “Energy Efficiency Resource Standard” to encourage utilities to adopt energy efficiency initiatives, as well as launching a new Department of Agriculture program devoted to innovative farming and agriculture research.
Acting on climate change is proving a popular rallying cry among the Democratic presidential contenders, with nearly a dozen of them pledging to make it one of their top priorities. Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas representative, released a $5 trillion climate plan last month.
Former vice president Joe Biden is so far bucking this trend. His campaign advisers last week told Reuters that Biden was planning to take a middle-ground approach to environment policy; Biden walked this back after environmental groups protested and said he plans to give more detail on his plans for the environment by the end of May.
Responding to the Biden campaign’s initial climate statements, Inslee told BuzzFeed News: “Half measures doom us to changes in our country that we just find totally unacceptable.”
Speaking on the phone from Davenport, Iowa, which experienced flooding earlier this year, Inslee told BuzzFeed News: “When you have people seeking high grounds for a flood, you can’t think a middle-ground approach is adequate.”