Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced on Friday he’s joining the quickly expanding Democratic field in the 2020 presidential race. In a speech at a solar installer’s facility in Seattle, he pitched a campaign platform centered around fighting climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy.
“I will put this simply: If climate change isn’t priority number one, it’s not going to get done,” said Inslee. “So, I am saying this: I am pledging today that if I am given this high honor, I will make fighting climate change the number-one priority of the United States of America.”
From his podium, situated in front of a solar panel display, Inslee pointed to the site of the announcement, A&R Solar — a residential and commercial installer working in Washington and Oregon that’s Tesla Powerwall-certified — as an example of “the future of America.” He centered climate change as an economic issue that provides an opportunity to grow the workforce and provide just jobs nationwide.
“We can pioneer the industries of the future, we can create millions of good paying jobs and build the clean energy economy of the future,” said Inslee. “Climate change is not more important than the economy; it is the economy.”
The newly minted candidate also connected climate change to other issues sure to rise to the top among Democrats vying for the presidency including healthcare, national security, inequality and racism.
“We must do this because there is no other issue that touches so much of what we care about,” he said in his announcement. “We know climate change is as much a matter of equity as it is a matter of ecology.”
Inslee’s speech echoed many of the themes written into the Green New Deal, a resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey in early February. That piece of legislation faces challenges — the GOP is alternately making light of the resolution and fearmongering around it, while Senate Democrats this week introduced a watered-down alternative climate resolution. But it’s also infused climate change and the transition to clean energy as central talking points in the 2020 race.
The governor outlined four broad planks to his particular take on fighting climate change. The first aligns directly with the Green New Deal, calling for 100 percent “clean, renewable and carbon-free energy” and net-zero greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S. The phrasing of that target presumably leaves all technologies in the mix to meet it.
Inslee also said his administration would work to create “millions of good-paying jobs in every community” and put justice at the center of these economic changes. Last, he said the government would end fossil fuel subsidies, promising the oil and gas industry “that gravy train is over.” On that final point, Inslee also pledged to decline all fossil fuel campaign funds.
The focus on climate follows on Inslee’s work as governor. He tried and failed to pass a carbon fee in Washington and in December introduced another legislative package that pushes the state toward 100 percent clean energy by 2045, which the state senate also passed on Friday.
On Friday, Inslee said initiatives the state of Washington has worked on indicate his priorities for federal office. He pointed to statewide moves such as the expansion of voting rights, legalization of marijuana, family and medical leave, a higher minimum wage, gun control, the protection of net neutrality and ending the death penalty as potential nationwide goals.
While many of those issues would likely face challenge in Congress, Inslee also recently said he thinks the country should do away with the filibuster.
The talk of climate change and clean energy on the campaign trail has already outflanked debates about those issues in 2016, especially in the general election. Inslee is the first candidate to frame climate change so centrally, but other 2020 candidates including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Bernie Sanders have also pledged they won’t take fossil fuel dollars. And support for the Green New Deal is already being called “a key litmus test” for those running.