The race to become the Democratic candidate for President is on. And with Joe Biden recently entering the race, Elizabeth Warren releasing a comprehensive higher education plan, and Bernie Sanders, well, existing, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out among the crowd. Which is perhaps why presidential hopeful Beto O’Rouke has released a proposal to tackle climate change. It’s the former Texas House Rep.’s first official policy proposal in his six-week-old campaign.
Up until this point, O’Rourke has been standing on tables and asserting that he would tackle food deserts with farm-to-table restaurants, so it’s refreshing to see a legitimate policy proposal from his camp. The fact that he’s picked climate change first is no surprise: it’s the cornerstone of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign, and all six of the Senators who are running support passing the Green New Deal. Every single Democratic candidate has called climate change a significant threat, including O’Rourke himself.
So what’s in O’Rourke climate change proposal? We break it down.
What is he proposing?
From 30,000 feet up, here’s what O’Rourke wants to do:
- Invest $5 trillion over 10 years in updating aging infrastructure and “empower[ing] our people and communities to lead the climate fight”
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord
- Reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050
More specifically, O’Rourke rolled out a “four-part framework” which will start on day one of his presidency. He will not only rejoin the Paris Climate Accord via executive order on day one, he also plans to “reduce methane leakage” in the oil and gas industry and ban hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a synthetic greenhouse gas that is “9,000 times more potent” than carbon dioxide.
The first bill he introduces to Congress will create $1.5 trillion of revenue by changing “the tax code [to] ensure corporations and the wealthiest among us pay their fair share.” That includes ending tax breaks for fossil fuel companies.
That revenue will be put right back into the economy via O’Rourke’s plan to update aging infrastructure. His infrastructure plan, he says, will not only create jobs, it’s also absolutely necessary in order to maintain our cities and highways as climate change-caused extreme weather increases.
He also plans on introducing several financial measures to incentivize individuals and private industries to switch to green technologies. Per O’Rourke, some of these investments will be:
- Temporary tax incentives for “nascent technologies” that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions “across all sectors,”
- $250 billion in multidisciplinary research and development in both the public and private sectors
- $650 billion in direct capital in low-income housing grants for sustainable buildings, green transportation technology grants, and small business and start-up grants for new businesses tackling climate change-related issues
The plan isn’t just looking ahead to a distant future, either. It also accounts for the fact that climate change is already happening, so the last part of his framework includes massive investment in pre-disaster mitigation and disaster relief. If implemented, his plan would likely prevent events like the national failure to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in 2017.
In other words: Beto is going to invest massive amounts of cash in green technologies that will help reduce carbon emissions, programs that will help the low-income and marginalized communities that are usually on the front-lines of environmental disasters (both natural and man-made), and de-incentivize fossil fuel investments by eliminating tax breaks. That said: there is a lot of vague language in his proposal about incentivizing green technologies and protecting communities on the front lines that’s not yet linked to practical initiatives.