Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington, changed the game by making the climate crisis the foundation of his presidential run last year. Now, the folks who wrote his plans are looking for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats to bring that same kind of ambition to our current political moment by way of a massive investment in clean energy as part of a coronavirus stimulus package.
On Thursday, former Inslee staffers launched Evergreen Action, a pair of advocacy and political nonprofits that aim to put climate at the top of the political agenda. The group’s first proposal, released in partnership with Data for Progress, is for a $1.2 to $1.5 trillion federal stimulus package dubbed a Clean Jumpstart for America. The package would protect workers harmed by the current economic recession, providing employment for the millions of Americans who’ve lost jobs in the wake of the pandemic, and, of course, transitioning away from fossil fuels. The proposal stands in sharp contrast with the stimulus proposal the House released on Wednesday, which doesn’t include any funding for a clean energy transition (oil and gas executives, meanwhile, are poised to make a killing from previous coronavirus stimulus packages).
“A stimulus package without clean energy is a... failure to recognize the centrality of these investments in the current moment of recovery,” Evergreen co-founder Bracken Hendricks, who co-authored Inslee’s climate plan, told Earther. “We need to jumpstart our economy, and we need to get it moving in the right direction... away from fossil fuels.”
Adding to previous calls for a green recovery from the pandemic, the new proposal includes specific ways Congress could boost state and federal investment in renewable energy and environmental justice. It builds on the Evergreen Action Plan, which the staffers released last month that riffed on Inslee’s climate plans and added new elements.
“While the Action Plan was a synthesis of all the policy work we did on the political campaign,” said Hendricks, “this Clean Jumpstart plan is really zeroing in on the key ideas in that larger climate plan which are focused on moving money into known programs rapidly to drive recovery. This proposal is very, very concrete and actionable.”
The plan lays out 11 ways the federal government could aid states, including not only funding renewable energy, but also potential buy-outs of fossil fuel projects on public lands, investment in disaster relief, and aid for state weatherization, water and utility affordability, and transit programs.
In addition to proposals for state funding, the Clean Jumpstart plan identifies 21 areas for further investment in federal programs, because “stimulus legislation should do both.” The memo includes calls for federal protections for fossil fuel workers, expanded tax incentives for renewable energy, support for electric vehicle manufacturing, and funding for retrofits for buildings and infrastructure. Much of this investment could happen immediately, and it’s definitely needed in the face of widespread job losses and hits to state budgets in the wake of the coronavirus.
“For instance, the expansion of the federal Green Real Estate Lending for Small Businesses... that basically drives money into capital projects for small businesses and communities to significantly boost energy efficiency or do green building and put in renewable energy,” Hendricks said. “And that’s an existing program. We could increase funds right now.”
Other proposals, such as the proposal to build an Americorps-style Climate Conservation Corps, are longer term projects (and wildly popular).
“[That is] the kind of thing that we need to build an administrative apparatus to carry out, but that we should absolutely be thinking about as we head into the November election and prepare for the next administration and Congress,” Julian Brave NoiseCat, Vice President of Policy and Strategy at Data for Progress and member of Evergreen’s advisory board, told Earther in an email.
Of course, in order to implement these proposals, political leaders need to get on board. And with the current elected officials on Capitol Hill seemingly unwilling to do so—again, even the Democratic-led House hasn’t prioritized renewable energy in their stimulus proposals—Evergreen and Data for Progress are calling for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and the next Congress to take up the torch.
“This paper is a call to action for leadership,” Hendricks said. “The next president and the next Congress need to be ready to lead on climate solutions that invest in communities.” That’s true not only because climate solutions are a good way to get Americans back to work, but also because they’ll facilitate the rapid transition off fossil fuels, which is necessary to avert climate catastrophe.
The advocates say he plan offers an important roadmap to Biden, who they’ve been advising behind the scenes and whose climate plan is a far cry from the ambitious proposal. The funds the Clean Jumpstart would allocate are more than Biden’s climate plan would allocate over 10 years.
Though it may not be apparent from Biden’s climate plans so far, there’s an appetite for this level of big, bold proposals. Evergreen and Data for Progress released the memo alongside a poll which shows that there’s tremendous public support for massive clean energy infrastructure investment to play a role in covid-19 stimulus packages.
“We can’t waste this opportunity,” said Hendricks.