Beto O’Rourke’s new climate plan: carbon emissions to net zero in 30 years
Former congressman Beto O’Rourke, Texas, in the first major policy plan of his presidential candidacy, proposed Monday slicing carbon emissions to net zero in 30 years, spending $5 trillion to make the country’s infrastructure more climate-friendly and having the United States rejoin the Paris climate agreement.
O’Rourke, part of a historically large and diverse field of Democrats running for the White House, frequently talks about the urgency of reversing climate change during his town hall meetings. When asked recently to name his “north star” issue, he said, “If we are to do nothing else but save the planet from us, we’ll have been successful.”
It’s the first detailed proposal released by O’Rourke, who is known for his inspirational message, eloquence on the stump and feel-good campaign events but has been light on policies and specifics. He plans to tour Yosemite National Park on Monday and visit California’s Central Valley to highlight his new initiative.
He’s not the only one in the Democratic field focusing on climate change. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is making the issue the focus of his bid, and it’s not clear whether O’Rourke’s announcement will affect Inslee’s candidacy.
O’Rourke’s proposal comes as several Democratic presidential hopefuls are seeking to move beyond the initial buzz of their campaigns and offer distinctive policy ideas. Sen. Kamala Harris, Calif., for example, has proposed boosting teacher pay and expanding gun control. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass., has made detailed policy plans a centerpiece of her campaign from the outset.
O’Rourke’s climate policy is not as ambitious as the Green New Deal framework offered by some congressional Democrats. That plan calls for net zero emissions in 10 years and has animated the political left but has been derided by Republicans, and criticized by some Democrats, as unrealistic.
O’Rourke’s campaign said his plan is “in line” with the Green New Deal. The former congressman appeared to be aiming for a far-reaching call for change that would excite Democratic voters while also avoiding some of the complaints of impracticality that have surrounded the Green New Deal.
Still, important details about the plan remain unclear. It calls for the “single largest investment in fighting climate change in history,” but says only that the initiative would be funded by unspecified “structural changes to the tax code.”
The plan calls for O’Rourke to use his presidential executive power on his first day in office to quickly enact priorities such as reentering the Paris climate agreement and “rapidly accelerating” the proliferation of zero-emission vehicles. He would also “establish National Parks and Monuments that more fully tell our American story,” the proposal says.
In addition, the plan would set aside funding for parts of the country that feel the brunt of changing weather patterns.