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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to reporters in Seminole Springs, California. The 2020 presidential candidate has made climate action the central theme of his campaign. (Photo: @JayInslee/Twitter)

Climate Campaigners Praise Gov. Inslee's 'Spirited Commitment' to Action, While Calling on 2020 Candidate to 'Push the Envelope'

Washington governor's plan calls for 100 percent renewable energy by 2035

Julia Conley

Climate action groups applauded Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as he became the first 2020 Democratic presidential contender to commit to a 100 percent renewable energy system, as part of the climate action plan he released on Friday.

Groups including Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and the Sunrise Movement offered praise for the ambitious goals Inslee outlined in his proposal and said they were eager to see if he'll build on the plan.

Using his home state's recently-passed 100 percent clean energy bill as a guideline, Inslee said he plans to ensure all newly-built vehicles and buildings are carbon pollution-free by 2030, and that all utlities in the U.S. run with zero carbon emissions by 2035.

"This is the approach that is worthy of the ambitions of a can-do nation and answers the absolute necessity of action that is defined by science," Inslee told the Associated Press.

Author and co-founder Bill McKibben was among those who applauded the proposal.

"This is the spirited commitment to bold climate action that young people are looking for in our next president," said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, which has led a nationwide campaign for a Green New Deal.

"Importantly, Jay Inslee recognizes that the United States, 'as the world's largest historical emitter of climate pollution and the global leader in technology innovation,' the U.S. needs to move faster than the rest of the world in tackling climate change, and needs to do it as fast as possible," Prakash added.

Inslee said the plan would offer support for workers in the coal, oil, and gas sectors who may lose their current jobs as the nation shifts to a renewable energy system.

"We are already paying through the nose through increased insurance rates and FEMA disaster declarations," Inslee told the AP, pre-empting questions regarding how his plan will be paid for. "And there's a heckuva lot more jobs defeating climate change than there are in denying it."

The governor also said his proposal would be funded through a mix of direct federal spending, tax subsidies, and spending by utilities.

The plan includes a "Clean Cars for Clunkers" trade-in program to encourage drivers to use cars that run on renewable energy; tax credits to incentivize the manufacture and purchase of such vehicles; and a call to begin using federal lands and property to capture and distribute solar and wind energy by 2030.

Critics who praised Inslee for listening to climate campaigners nonetheless noted that the plan was lacking in some areas.

"We are pleased and encouraged to see the aggressive timeline for a transition to clean energy that Governor Inslee is proposing," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch.

"However," she added, "he has failed to address the critical need to cut new fossil fuel development at the source, by banning drilling and fracking on federal lands, and ending the dangerous buildout of pipelines and other harmful infrastructure. Any complete transition to a clean, renewable energy future must inevitably include a halt on new oil and gas investment, beginning now."

Friends of the Earth (FOE) said it was eagerly awaiting additional tenets of Inslee's climate agenda, which the governor said are forthcoming.

"Inslee's 100 percent Clean Energy for America Plan shows that he understands just how serious the climate crisis is and that he is committed to taking this fight to the national level," said fossil fuels program manager Nicole Ghio. "Friends of the Earth Action looks forward to his forthcoming policies on environmental justice, agriculture, a just transition and jobs, and keeping fossil fuels in the ground."

The Sunrise Movement called for further commitments from Inslee to "ensure justice for those on the frontlines of pollution, extraction, and our broken economy."

"We believe more urgency is necessary and hope that the governor will continue to push the envelope," Prakash said.

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