SEATTLE – Washington Governor Jay Inslee has entered the 2020 presidential race as the candidate who has what it takes to unite Americans around one goal — fighting climate change.
But while Inslee pushes for a Green New Deal-like economic plan, the Democratic governor has failed to implement major climate policies in his own state.
“His climate policy has failed with the legislature, failed with the courts and failed with the voters,” said Todd Myers, environmental policy director at the free-market Washington Policy Center.
“There’s not a single metric where Washington state is going the right direction on climate change,” Myers told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview.
Inslee launched his presidential campaign Friday with a video making clear that fighting climate change would be the central focus of his campaign — though he’s also come out for abolishing the Senate filibuster and statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico.
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“So [climate change] can’t be on a laundry list,” Inslee told Vox in an interview published Friday. “It can’t be something that candidates check the box on. It has to be a full-blooded effort to mobilize the United States in all capacities.”
To that end, Inslee’s campaign website lays out his plan for “an all-out national climate mobilization” called “America’s Climate Mission,” which is his answer to the Green New Deal that’s backed by many Democratic 2020 contenders.
Inslee’s plan includes getting to “100% clean energy and net-zero greenhouse gas pollution through targeted strategies for all sectors of our economy” and creating “millions of good-paying jobs over the next 10 years.”
Inslee hopes to win over anti-Trump environmentalists and donors. His campaign website highlights his environmental agenda, including being called “the greenest governor in the country” by the League of Conservation Voters.
However, Myers said Inslee has largely failed to implement climate policies in environmentally-conscious, deep-blue Washington.
Washington voters overwhelmingly rejected a carbon tax ballot initiative in 2018 that Inslee supported and even campaigned for. The ballot measure would have raised energy prices about $230 per year for the average Washington household.
It was the second time Washington voters rejected a carbon tax ballot measure, though Inslee did not support the previous revenue-neutral tax proposed on the 2016 ballot.
Previously, Inslee tried to implement a statewide cap-and-trade program through executive actions, but the courts quickly blocked the governor. The matter is now headed for oral arguments in the state supreme court.
Inslee’s push for carbon tax legislation died in the state legislature in early 2018. Democrats joined Republicans in the state Senate to block the bill and it wasn’t even brought to the floor in the state House.
“It’s not just that they just didn’t pass in the Republican-held state Senate, he couldn’t get out of the state House,” Myers said. “None of his climate policies even made it to the floor of the state House.”
Inslee admitted there’s been “frustrations,” but claimed “progress” on promoting renewable energy, electric vehicles and electrified mass transit. A spokesman also recently touted Inslee’s blocking of coal and oil export terminals along Washington coast.
“Johnson hadn’t passed civil rights legislation for 20 years in the Senate, either, but he signed the Civil Rights bill,” Inslee told Vox.
“I was very involved in passing the renewable portfolio standard,” Inslee said, referring to a 2006 law. “We went from zero to a billion-dollar wind industry in the last several years. We have moved the needle on the electrification of our transportation system.”
“We’re number one or two, or we used to be, with electric cars because of the work we’ve been doing with incentives and building the electrical charging station grid on the interstate,” Inslee added.
However, Myers pointed to a Washington Policy Center report he published in July that found, relying on state data, that most electric car subsidies benefited the wealthiest Washington residents and did little to reduce emissions.
Indeed, Washington state emissions increased during Inslee’s first term as governor. The latest state figures show Washington emissions rose 6 percent between 2012 and 2016 — Inslee took office in 2013.
Despite his troubled start, Inslee told Vox he’ll continue to push climate legislation while he’s governor.
“So this year we are advancing a package of bills in the legislature, including a 100 percent clean grid bill,” Inslee told Vox.