O'Rourke rolls out $5 trillion climate change plan

O'Rourke rolls out $5 trillion climate change plan
© Greg Nash

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) on Monday rolled out his most ambitious policy proposal to date, calling for the United States to invest $5 trillion over the next decade in an effort to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

O'Rourke aims to update aging U.S. infrastructure, accelerate innovation and invest climate sustainability in local communities. His campaign said it would be the "largest investment in fighting climate change in history."
 
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The climate proposal also includes executive actions that O'Rourke's campaign said he would sign on day one if elected. Under his plan, the U.S. would reenter the Paris climate agreement and there would be a moratorium on new oil and gas sales on federal lands and offshore, while setting a 2030 net-zero emissions target for federal lands. Emissions from drilling on public lands currently account for roughly a quarter of all U.S. emissions.

“The greatest threat we face — which will test our country, our democracy, every single one of us — is climate change,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

“We have one last chance to unleash the ingenuity and political will of hundreds of millions of Americans to meet this moment before it's too late," he added. "The actions we’re announcing today will help us get there — by wasting no time cutting pollution, making historic investments in infrastructure, innovation, and our communities, setting bold emissions targets, and defending those most at risk from the dangers and destruction of climate change.”

He announced the plan Monday as he was traveling through California’s Central Valley — an agriculture focused region that has experienced historic drought. Over the weekend O'Rourke met with firefighters to discuss their efforts to combat wildfires, a number of which have devastated the state in the past two years.

The plan marks O'Rourke's first major policy rollout since announcing his presidential bid last month. The move is likely aimed at blunting criticism that the former congressman lacks a signature policy issue.

The rollout comes just days after fellow 2020 candidate Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSeven takeaways from a busy Democratic presidential campaign weekend in Iowa Iowa GOP swipes at 2020 Democrats' meat positions as candidates attend annual Steak Fry Booker aide sounds alarm about campaign's funding MORE (D-N.J.) unveiled his environmental justice plan. Another White House hopeful, Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert Inslee2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum Overnight Energy: Trump officials formally revoke California emissions waiver | EPA's Wheeler dodges questions about targeting San Francisco over homelessness | 2020 Dems duke it out at second climate forum Yang floats nominating Inslee as 'climate czar' MORE (D), has made climate change the centerpiece of his campaign.

Almost every Democrat who has joined the presidential race has made fighting global warming a key part of their platform. O'Rourke is among those who have signed on to the tenets of the progressive Green New Deal, which aims to get the U.S. electric grid running on renewable energy by shifting the economy toward green jobs.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another 2020 Democratic hopeful, this month unveiled a proposal aimed at protecting public lands and rolling back many of President Trump's environmental policies. She plans to immediately halt drilling offshore and on publicly owned lands, as well as restoring the original boundary lines for two national monuments shrunk under Trump.

Recent polls show that climate is a top issue among Democratic voters, along with policy matters like health care. It's also an area where candidates can appeal to younger voters, who often say climate is their top concern.

Monday's announcement by O'Rourke comes at a time when he has seen his presidential bid overshadowed in recent weeks by the campaign of another rising star in the 2020 Democratic field of candidates: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegOmar: Biden not the candidate to 'tackle a lot of the systematic challenges that we have' Seven takeaways from a busy Democratic presidential campaign weekend in Iowa Democrats go all out to court young voters for 2020 MORE.

O'Rourke has largely ran his presidential campaign in the same way he ran his high-profile Senate bid against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump walks tightrope on gun control State Department's top arms control official leaving Sanders NASA plan is definitely Earth first MORE (R-Texas) last year, hinging his strategy on a series of small gatherings and road trips across early primary states while eschewing large rallies and televised interviews with national news networks.

Updated at 10:37 a.m.