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Climate change is cyclical, but this is worse
01:19 - Source: CNN

Watch CNN’s live town hall on the climate crisis featuring 10 Democratic presidential candidates tonight beginning at 5 p.m. ET.

CNN  — 

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg released a sweeping plan to fight climate change on Wednesday, calling the issue “the security challenge of our time” and tasking the Department of Defense with addressing it.

In a new policy proposal released Wednesday morning ahead of a 10-candidate CNN town hall focused on the issue, Buttigieg calls for a “Climate Watch Floor” set up under the Department of Defense, which his campaign said would put the crisis front and center and make it an urgent priority. The plan also creates a new senior climate security role within the department.

The proposal, which draws from some existing plans like President Barack Obama’s Smart Cities Initiative, calls for net zero emissions by 2050, the creation of 3 million clean energy and infrastructure jobs over 10 years and “a bold and achievable Green New Deal,” the ambitious and controversial proposal sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and a host of other left-leaning Democrats.

The plan will cost $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion plus a significant investment in modernizing infrastructure, according to a campaign spokesperson. These federal investments will leverage tens of trillions of dollars in private, state and local investments, the spokesperson said.

Climate change is a preeminent issue in the Democratic nomination fight, with nearly all the candidates releasing plans to address rising global temperatures and harsher weather, and stressing the issue’s importance. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who dropped out of the race in August, made the crisis central to his campaign.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, regularly addresses the issue on the stump. As Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas and now takes aim at the Southeast coast of the US, he linked the storm to climate change, telling reporters, “This has gone from a possibility to a prediction to a reality to an emergency, and shame on anybody who doesn’t have a plan to deal with it.”

The storm will surely leave Americans with damage to their properties and in need of funds to get back on their feet. In his plan, Buttigieg proposes National Catastrophic Extreme Weather Insurance, where families would be able to purchase coverage “based on risk and location from private insurers, regulated by the federal government,” and would be partly subsidized by the federal government depending on income level.

He would add $1 billion to the Low-Income Energy Assistance program, which helps cover bills in times of crisis like a heat wave or extreme cold. The plan details the immediate deployment of emergency funds, so Americans don’t have to wait for congressional approval to get financial assistance.

Buttigieg’s climate plan implores rural America to help solve the climate crisis by providing cash incentives. Last weekend Buttigieg spent two stops on his Iowa campaign swing tackling climate change, including a roundtable discussion with activists and a tour of the banks of the Cedar River, which flooded earlier this year.

“Climate change is not just happening on the North Pole. It is happening in the American interior, in any community with a river. But really any community at all has so much at stake in the accelerating frequency and intensity of storms,” he told reporters in Iowa.

In his plan, farmers who have been badly hit by historic flooding in the past two years will get paid “for sequestering carbon in their soil including through reduced and no tillage of soil, cover crops, precision nitrogen management, improved grazing systems, and science-based crop rotation plans.”

The plan puts a focus on low-income communities. Buttigieg plans to set a price on carbon that would increase each year, and the revenue would be rebated to Americans, especially benefiting low- and middle-income households. He proposes creating an American Clean Energy Bank with $250 billion in initial capital, which would provide loans and grants to clean energy technologies targeting the middle of the country. Climate Action Bonds, which Americans could buy and would help fund clean energy programs, would “enable every American to invest in climate action and feel that they own a piece of our future.”

Buttigieg plans to invest $200 billion over 10 years in training and transition programs for workers in dying industries like steel and coal, and pivoting them to more environmentally friendly jobs like solar and wind energy. He plans to create a Climate Corps for younger generations, to fall under his National Service Plan, which aims to quadruple service opportunities for 1 million high school graduates by 2026. The Climate Corps would include teaching in schools on issues of sustainability and conservation.

Buttigieg, along with every other Democratic presidential candidate, vows to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord in his plan, after President Donald Trump announced the US would pull out.

Buttigieg has been critical of Trump’s stance on climate change and recently criticized the President’s response to the fires in the Amazon in Brazil.

“It would be helpful if America could provide some leadership here, especially since the President might have some leverage with Brazil that the others don’t. I’m not getting my hopes up for action out of the White House, but it would be meaningful if there were,” Buttigieg told reporters in New Hampshire last month.

In his first 100 days, Buttigieg says, he will hold a Pittsburgh Climate Summit to convene local leaders from the US and around the world. “Mayors know that good ideas don’t only come from Washington, DC,” he writes in the plan, also calling on the US to host a United Nations meeting of global climate leaders in the United States.

This story has been updated to reflect that the Buttigieg campaign renamed its proposed climate-focused office under the Defense Department.

CNN’s DJ Judd contributed to this report.