Energy & Environment

Former Inslee staffers pitch climate plan to Biden, Congress

Ex-campaign staffers for former presidential candidate Jay Inslee are reviving the Washington governor’s ambitious climate plan by pitching an updated proposal to congressional Democrats and the Biden campaign.

The new plan is a condensed version of Inslee’s 200-page climate manifesto but contains many of the same objectives: transitioning to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, slashing subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, creating a Climate Conservation Corps, and revitalizing the economy through investment in green technology and clean energy.

The revised proposal has been sent to the Biden campaign, Democratic congressional leaders and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in both chambers, in hopes that some of the ideas might gain enough traction to garner stimulus funding or be implemented if Biden wins in November.

“Essentially the concept was: How can we take the assets of a presidential campaign, including smart, thoughtful policy and communications and media and organizing capacity, but put it in service of policy and the movement rather than an individual?” said Bracken Hendricks, a former Inslee staffer who authored the plan alongside two other colleagues from the campaign.

They are part of a new organization called Evergreen Action, a nod to both Inslee’s home state and what the group’s founders see as the durability of the proposal.

Jared Leopold, a former Inslee spokesman, described the new plan as “a road map and action agenda of what Congress and the next president can do.”

“It takes its inspiration from Gov. Inslee’s plan, which was designed to meet the scientific need of a national mobilization to defeat climate change,” Leopold said. “This is intended to pick up where he left off on driving the policy and the politics of climate change.”

When Inslee ended his presidential campaign in August, the Democratic field of candidates lost its first candidate who made climate change the top priority. Upon his exit, he called his climate manifesto an “open source” tool for anyone that wanted to adopt it.

The revised version of the plan puts a greater emphasis on executive action than what Inslee proposed, detailing a White House Office of Climate Mobilization modeled after the World War II-era Office of War Mobilization.

The new office would “forcefully drive” the president’s climate missions and would be “backed by staff acting with the full power and authority of the presidency.” That aspect also calls for efforts “across the President’s cabinet agencies to convene, coordinate, drive, and ultimately hold accountable every federal department to this national mission.”

While the Biden campaign did not comment on details of the new plan from Inslee’s former staffers, spokesman Matt Hill has previously said the campaign was “continuously evaluating and considering additional policies that can build upon the ones Vice President Biden has already introduced.”

With former Vice President Joe Biden now the presumptive nominee, some environmental groups are pushing him to be more aggressive on climate.

Biden’s climate plan, which received a B+ from Greenpeace, lagged proposals from Inslee and former White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sander (I-Vt.), who both called for spending trillions more to address climate change in plans that were described as the “gold standard” for tackling the issue.

Some environmental groups have said they’d like to see Biden call for 100 percent clean energy sooner than his 2050 deadline, and commit to rejecting new permits for fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines.

But Evergreen Action is hoping their plan might have a more immediate impact as Congress considers a stimulus and infrastructure package as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan argues that some of the billions being proposed on Capitol Hill to bolster the economy could be used to promote growth in green industries.

“Coronavirus has shown the lie that we don’t have money to spend on climate change. We have money and we could take on this crisis,” said Leah Stokes, an assistant professor of climate policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara who serves on the Evergreen Alliance’s advisory board.

“People dying early from air pollution isn’t good for the economy. Devastating fires and droughts and heat waves aren’t good for the economy,” she said. “These are investments that pay themselves back. We can actually spend a lot of money because we’ll get returns.”

Still, advancing an coronavirus-related bill with key environmental provisions could prove a tough sell in a divided Congress, particularly with Republicans warning against provisions that would stand little chance of being signed into law on their own.

Democratic leaders and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis did not respond to requests for comment on Evergreen Action’s plan.

The plan also comes as lawmakers have begun to take a broader view of climate policy, Leopold said.

Plans have gone from being more narrowly focused on carbon taxes to more sweeping proposals focused on setting benchmarks for various industries. A discussion draft from House Democrats is in that vein, with a 600-page outline requiring progress in electricity, transportation and buildings.

“You’re starting to see the worm turning a little on the Hill to a standards- and investments-focused approach on larger climate-focused bills that have come out,” Leopold said.

“We’re at a critical inflection point for climate policy with Congress debating the economic stimulus and with discussion around the Democratic platform on climate change.”

Tags Climate change Jay Inslee Joe Biden Washington

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