Climate advocate Jay Inslee may have dropped out of the Democratic primary, but it doesn’t appear like the controversial issue of [checks notes] saving humanity from an environmental apocalypse is going to fall out of focus. On Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) released arguably the most ambitious proposal yet to tackle the climate crisis, setting himself up to succeed Inslee as the field’s most prominent champion of the issue.
Dubbing the plan as his version of the Green New Deal, Sanders wants America’s electrical and transportation systems to be powered exclusively by renewable energy by 2030, and for America to be totally decarbonized by 2050. The plan calls for a $16.3 trillion public investment to make this happen, which Sanders says will pay for itself in only 15 years, partially through tax revenue generated from the 20 million new jobs the plan would create. To help kick the plan into gear, Sanders would take executive action to declare the climate crisis a national emergency.
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge facing humanity. It's also our single greatest opportunity to build a just and equitable future.
We are going to create 20 million jobs and an economy that works for all.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 22, 2019
Sanders plan distinguishes itself in how aggressively it targets the fossil fuel industry. Not only does it call for hiking up taxes and penalties on polluters, it taps the Justice Department to pursue litigation against them. “They have evaded taxes, desecrated tribal lands, exploited workers and poisoned communities,” the plan reads. “President Bernie Sanders will ensure that his Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission investigate these companies and bring suits — both criminal and civil — for any wrongdoing, just as the federal government did with the tobacco industry in the 1980s.”
Sanders was one of the first prominent politicians to endorse the initial Green New Deal, which offered a framework for an economic overhaul to combat the climate crisis. The plan the senator released on Thursday is the closest a presidential candidate has come to filling in the specifics. As Sanders put it to the New York Times, his plan puts the “meat on the bones” of the Green New Deal, which has been promoted most notably by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
Sanders will have a chance to sell his bold vision for action to millions of Americans on September 4th, when CNN will host a town hall focused on the climate crisis.