When Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced on March 1 that he was running for president, he promised a campaign laser-focused on one issue: climate change. In his announcement video, he said, “We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we’re the last that can do something about it.”
Inslee promised a holistic approach to the issue: “We have an opportunity to transform our economy,” he said, “run on 100 percent clean energy, that will bring millions of good paying jobs to every community across America, and create a more just future for everyone.”
But what does that mean, exactly? Not much until today, May 3, when Inslee released his official climate change policy proposal. In a statement to CNN, he said, “This plan is ambitious in its scope, but practical in its aims, because it’s based off our successes in Washington state this year. We can and must build an economy free from fossil fuels, and that is what I’m proposing today.”
As promised, it’s a comprehensive, multifaceted overhaul of the U.S. economy that attempts to tackle what Inslee considers the most important challenge of our time. Here’s what’s in it.
What is he proposing?
Inslee’s proposal is officially called The 100% Clean Energy for America Plan. It’s a three-part, 10-year plan that aims to tackle climate change by reshaping the power grid, U.S. building code and infrastructure, and the American auto market, and in doing so, reach net-zero emissions by 2045.
Using the 100 percent clean energy bill that just passed in his home state, Washington, as a template, Inslee plans on transitioning to net-zero emissions sector by sector, rather than trying to switch the entire economy over in one go. There would be no carbon tax, based on his numerous attempts (and failures) to pass one in Washington.
Here are some of his stated goals:
- Set a 100-percent standard for zero-emissions in new cars and buses
- Set a 100-percent standard for zero-emissions in new buildings
- Completely divest from coal by 2030
- Convert the U.S. to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035
- Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest
As Buzzfeed News points out, Inslee is the only candidate to state that he wants to eliminate the coal industry from the U.S. economy altogether, a politically risky move, but one which would aide the transition to 100 percent renewable energy and will have an outsized impact on greenhouse gas emissions and coal pollution-related health hazards. According to Inslee’s website, the closure of “America’s coal-fired power plants” will include “making major investments to ensure a just transition, including good-paying jobs for workers and support for vulnerable communities.”
In other words: his plan won’t just shut down coal plants, which is bad for the approximately 53,000 people who work in the coal mining industry, it will also use a combination of tax incentives and jobs programs to ease the transition. What’s important to note about Inslee’s clean energy jobs program is that it is anticipating trends that are already picking up steam in the U.S. economy: according to Grist, renewable energy production outpaced coal for the first time ever this April.
By using executive orders, legislation, and tax incentives to create a 100-percent zero-emissions standard for new building, that will guarantee the transition to infrastructure (both public and private) that will not only be less harmful to the environment but will withstand climate change-related weather events, which, as climate change worsens, are predicted to cause upwards of $1 trillion in damage in the coming years if the warming of the planet is not stopped. One way in which Inslee plans to accomplish this: “eliminate by 2023 fossil-fuel use – including coal, fuel oil and natural gas – in all new and renovated federal buildings.”
The governor has additionally proposed using “federal lands, offshore waters and facilities” to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, citing Nevada’s Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone as an example of a quickly deployed solar energy project. His administration would additionally use grant programs and tax incentives to accelerate the development of clean energy businesses and solutions.