John Delaney releases $4 trillion climate plan that aims to tax carbon, return funds to American people

(CNN)Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney became the latest 2020 candidate to unveil a plan to combat climate change on Thursday, rolling out a $4 trillion proposal that includes a carbon tax and a substantial increase to the Department of Energy's budget to spur green technology investment.

The largest portion of the former Maryland representative's plan is his proposal to tax carbon polluters and redistribute that money to the American people, which he has dubbed the "Carbon Fee and Dividend" proposal. Delaney said on Thursday that this part of his plan alone would reduce US carbon emissions by 90% by 2050, and his campaign touted that it would result in $3 trillion in government revenues.
Delaney's proposal also includes plans to stimulate investment in direct air capture, an expensive technology that allows users to separate carbon dioxide from the air. Delaney would fund this by ending the federal government's subsidies to fossil fuel companies and, instead, making an annual $5 billion investment in technology that helps get to negative emissions.
While the plan is touted to be worth $4 trillion, most of that -- $3 trillion -- would be raised from Delaney's proposed carbon tax. That money would be given back to the American people, the plan states, with an option to invest it "in a tax-advantaged savings account like a 529 for future education purposes or a retirement account." The remaining $1 trillion would include government spending on carbon capture technology and an increased budget for DOE.
    The plan also looks to increase the number of government grants on combating climate change and spur volunteerism to deal with the issue through a newfound "Climate Corps."
    Delaney said Thursday that passing this proposal would be a "a first 100 days priority in my administration."
    "We have to act on climate, and we have to act now," Delaney said in a statement. "Failure to act threatens our prosperity, national security, food supply, and the natural world."
    Delaney added: "We can't wait to convince the climate deniers and we can't put forth unrealistic solutions or plans that crush Americans economically. We need a real plan to hit our goals and we have to listen to actual scientists. This is a real plan that all Americans can support."
    Combating climate change, according to polls, remains among the most pressing issues on the minds of Democratic voters ahead of the 2020 election.
    In a recent CNN poll, 82% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents said climate change was a "very important" issue, ranking it at the top of a list of issues, ahead of universal health care, tighter gun laws and impeaching President Donald Trump.
    To date, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke have unveiled detailed plans to combat climate change. And Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has staked his entire campaign on the issue, releasing a series of detailed plans to tackle turning the tide on global warming.
    Delaney, who announced a presidential bid in 2017 -- more than a year before any other elected official declared their intentions to run for president -- is a self-made millionaire and is primarily funding his own 2020 campaign.
    Polls currently show Delaney is around 1% nationally and in the early states.
    The most unique portion of Delaney's plan is the investment in direct air capture, an expensive technology that has been difficult to implement due to its prohibitive cost.
      But Xan Fishman, Delaney's deputy campaign manager, said Thursday that the campaign believes the technology could be the bridge to getting to net-zero emissions while still allowing carbon spewing technology like moving freight and some agriculture practices.
      "The carbon fee and dividend plan is about 90% of emissions reductions and the rest of it comes from various forms of innovation," Fishman said. "The theory is: In the long run, we are going to be able to have renewables and emission free sources for power generation and we are going to have electric cars, but there are some trickier things to solve like moving freight. ... That is where direct air capture comes in."