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Washington Gov.: Not a moment for climate 'timidity'

Editor’s Note: Jay Inslee is one of 10 presidential candidates taking part in the second of two nights of Democratic debates at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, July 31, on CNN. He is the governor of Washington. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own; view more opinion at CNN.

(CNN) —  

Earlier this week, I visited southwest Detroit’s 48217 zip code - the most polluted area in Michigan. In the shadow of a Marathon Oil refinery, children breathe in polluted air and face higher rates of asthma and cancer than other neighborhoods.

I’ve seen this story across the country: Businesses flooded out in Davenport, Iowa; homes burned to ashes in Agoura Hills, California; families breathe in toxic fumes in south Philadelphia. American communities are paying the price for American politicians who refuse to confront the fossil fuel industry.

Jay Inslee
PHOTO: Inslee Campaign
Jay Inslee

Southwest Detroit and communities like it across the country are on the front lines of climate change. They paint a vivid picture of what’s ahead for our entire country if we continue to allow the fossil fuel industry to profit off the destruction of our planet.

It’s time to confront reality: If we do not take on the fossil fuel industry, we won’t defeat climate change.

I believe that America can do big things – and that’s why I’ve proposed a bold and comprehensive plan to defeat the climate crisis. My plan would move us to 100% clean energy, develop new clean cars and buildings in the coming decade, put environmental justice at the center of American climate policy and leverage $9 trillion in investments to create 8 million jobs building a clean energy economy.

But no climate plan is complete without a strategy to take on America’s fossil fuel industry. That’s why I’ve called for ending our nation’s use of coal by 2030, eliminating their billions in tax subsidies and rejecting new fossil fuel infrastructure like the Line 5 pipeline in Michigan.

Right now, we are on an unsustainable path. Around the world, fossil fuel reserves in development today already exceed the amount that can be burned if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Left unchecked, this will squander our opportunity to prevent a 1.5 degree Celsius global temperature rise and the worst of this crisis. We must face these industries head-on.

We must take on these industries by getting rid of the billions of subsidies big oil and coal take from taxpayers each year. This also means taking on the indirect subsidies of sweetheart deals for oil and drilling leases on public lands. And it means putting an end to fracking, and more.

Make no mistake, the fossil fuel industry is not going to give away their power without a fight. Big polluters spend millions of dollars each year trying to stifle climate action. Most candidates aren’t willing to take them head-on. But I’ve spent my career fighting the oil and gas industries, and it’s going to take that all-out commitment to beat them.

Earlier this year in Washington state, we passed one of the country’s best plans for 100% clean electricity, and ended the use of coal by 2025. There is a movement in my state and across the country – people want bold climate action. They’re seeing the extreme weather events, the devastating forest fires, the heat waves and droughts and the winter storms that are growing more intense. Americans are seeing firsthand that our planet is changing, and they want fearless leaders who will make change.

Throughout our nation’s history, we have rallied together and risen to the challenges we’ve faced – from retraining workers for the industrial revolution to mobilizing our nation to win World War II to sending a man to the moon. With the right leadership and the right vision, we can mobilize the United States economy to defeat the climate crisis.

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That’s why I’m running for president. It’s why I’ve dedicated my public life to this fight. And it’s why I have promised to make climate change my top priority if I’m elected president. Our communities today and future generations deserve to live in a world free from pollution, where they don’t risk extreme cases of asthma and where they can spend their summers outside without risk of dangerous heat levels or smoke from forest fires.

It is not too late to prevent the worst of the climate crisis by building a more just, innovative and inclusive clean energy economy. But to do that we need to elect a president with the vision and commitment to mobilize the entire US economy. I am ready to be that president.