Washington Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his presidential campaign’s jobs plan on Thursday, detailing a proposal with a laser-like focus on combating climate change that projects the creation of 8 million jobs over the next 10 years.
The five-point, 38-page proposal to combat climate change – which he compared to former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal – further highlights how Inslee is banking his presidential run on voters’ deeply held concerns about the issue.
The second such plan of his presidential campaign, it also shows how Inslee believes climate change ties into some of the most pressing issues on the minds of voters, including jobs, health care and infrastructure.
“Those who think the climate crisis is one thing just don’t understand it is actually everything,” Inslee said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday. “It’s all connected. It’s not just a biological ecosystem. It’s an economic ecosystem. It’s a health ecosystem. It is all connected, and you can’t solve our other problems unless you solve this one.”
Inslee officially announced the plan during a Thursday visit to DC Water’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in Washington, DC, a newly renovated facility that uses green technology to turn wastewater into energy.
During that event, Inslee showed a willingness to call out his Democratic opponents on climate change. He took a veiled swipe at former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, which told Reuters that the Democratic frontrunner planned to propose a moderate climate change plan that would appeal to both environmentalists and working class voters.
“We cannot have a middle ground proposal to build a clean energy future,” Inslee said.
Asked by CNN after the event about those comments, Inslee took another – and more direct – swipe at Biden.
“I was concerned, like most everyone was, of the comments coming out of this campaign, but I will reserve judgment until we see what Joe Biden actually proposes,” Inslee said. “I will wait and see if he can match the commitments that I have made to the American people. If he does that, I think it will be a great day for the Democratic Party, but to do so, he’s going to have to up his game and say categorically we cannot be shackled to coal jobs forever.”
He added: “He is going to have to say that we have to remove our reliance on fossil fuels from the electrical grid. I have not seen to date any suggestion that he could do that.”
The Inslee plan sits on five pillars:
- Investing in a nationwide effort to deploy clean energy technology.
- Spending billions on American infrastructure with a focus on clean energy structures.
- Incentivizing companies to increase energy efficiency by creating an “Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit.”
- Increasing federal investment in clean energy research by five times, to $35 billion each year.
- Helping workers reunionize as a way to “build an Evergreen Economy.”
In total, the plan would see the federal government spending $3 trillion on investment in fighting climate change and green technology over 10 years. Inslee believes it would leverage an additional $6 trillion over the same period in private money.
The plan would create a $90 billion Green Bank to help deploy green technology to communities and launch a Clean Water for All initiative that would spend $82 billion to “close the … annual funding gap in critical drinking water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.”
The proposal would also boost the investment in electric vehicle and battery technology, as well as establish a “federal ‘Buy Clean’ Program to help close the carbon loophole and support domestic industries and workers.”
Inslee argued in an interview with CNN that investments in clean energy are the best way to stimulate the economy and create jobs, adding that few other issues matter if climate change is left unchecked.
“This forecloses our success in every other endeavor,” he said. “And that’s why we have to make our job one, in part because it’s so big, but also in part because it’s the thing that is most urgent, because this is our last chance.”
He added: “There may be a chance to deal with some other issues. This the last chance to deal with this one. We will either get on top of this and start a major mobilization of the nation’s energies and intellect and skills during the next administration or we’re toast.”
Inslee unveiled his first policy proposal earlier his month, rolling out a plan that called for a wholesale change to the way the US builds buildings, manufactures cars and supplies the power grid, and includes a proposal to cut US coal production by 2030.
Inslee has staked his entire 2020 campaign on climate change and launched his bid pledging to make the issue – which he argues impacts “every issue” facing the country – his focus as president.
It could be a good bet: A recent CNN poll found that 82% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents find climate change a “very important” issue, ranking it at the top of the list ahead of universal health care, tighter gun laws and impeaching President Donald Trump.
Inslee is far from the only Democrat talking about climate change. Democrats in the House, led by some in the liberal wing of the party, have pushed for the passage of the Green New Deal, a sweeping legislative package that would mean wholesale changes to the way the federal government combats climate change. Inslee has called the plan “aspirational,” but has spent considerably more time boosting his own climate change plans.
Inslee’s campaign is also confronting the fact that because of his focus on the issue, he has come to be known as the climate change candidate, a definition that may seem to suggest he does not plan to tackle other issues. The governor said Wednesday that being defined as focused only on climate has been an issue for his candidacy.
“Yes, it is a challenge,” he said bluntly. “We spend time” talking about his record as governor “and I think as time goes on it will be more effective.”
Inslee’s plan was welcomed by experts in the climate change field.
“The breadth and scale of Gov. Inslee’s Evergreen Economy Plan is impressive,” said Ivan Frishberg, the former climate campaign manager of Organizing for Action. “It would leverage American investments, workers and ingenuity to address what economists and scientists have outlined as necessary.”