Jay Inslee says fighting climate change his ‘No. 1 priority’

Source: Timothy Cama, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, March 4, 2019

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) entered the 2020 presidential race with a pledge to make fighting climate change his top priority.

The outspoken climate advocate, who has unsuccessfully pushed for measures to charge companies that emit greenhouse gases both nationally and in the Evergreen State, is entering a historically crowded and competitive Democratic field hoping to face off against President Trump.

Inslee, 68, announced his long-expected campaign this morning with a video, and is planning a formal launch event later in the day at a solar panel equipment installation company in Seattle.

The video shows clips from Inslee’s climate advocacy going back years, including his time in the U.S. House from 1989 to 2012.

“We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we’re the last that can do something about it. We went to the moon and created technologies that have changed the world. Our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change,” he said in the launch video.

“I’m Jay Inslee, and I’m running for president because I’m the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s No. 1 priority.”

It featured dramatic images and videos of events tied to climate change, like flooding and wildfires, and a child with an asthma inhaler.

Science educator Bill Nye, known from his 1990s show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” makes a brief appearance at the end as one of dozens of people in a montage saying, “This is our moment.”

The 82-second production was short on policy details, except to advocate for moving the nation to “100 percent clean energy.”

Despite Inslee’s outspoken climate advocacy, his record is short on major accomplishments (Climatewire, Jan. 18). In the House, he helped pass a major cap-and-trade bill, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” in 2009, but it died in the Senate. In more recent years, he failed at both legislative and ballot initiative attempts to impose a tax on carbon dioxide emissions in Washington state.

Nonetheless, he helped keep coal export terminals out of the state and worked to push funding into clean energy technology.

The environmental community greeted Inslee’s candidacy with cheer but stopped short of endorsing him or anyone else.

“The 2020 election will decide whether or not the U.S. will lead the world in overcoming climate catastrophe,” tweeted Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen America and a major Democratic donor who himself considered running for president. “It’s good to know that a climate champion like @GovInslee will be in the race, pushing the country to recognize what is at stake.”

EDF Action, the campaign arm of the Environmental Defense Fund, said Inslee’s campaign shows that climate is taking a lead role in the 2020 contest.

“It is exciting to see so many presidential candidates make climate change a top issue in their campaigns, said Joe Bonfiglio, EDF Action’s president, in a statement. He added Inslee’s commitment demonstrates the urgency Americans feel “about this great challenge, which is translating into real political power for climate solutions.”

Denis Dison, spokesman for NRDC Action Fund, the campaign arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council, shared similar thoughts.

“Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement is remarkable evidence of this shift — a presidential candidate putting the climate issue at the center of his campaign launch,” he said in welcoming Inslee to the race.

“Candidates who put climate action at the center of their campaigns understand that elections are about the future,” he noted. “They’re listening to the American people — 7 in 10 of whom expect our government to stand up and fight the central environmental challenge of our time. And there’s no question we need a president who understands that the true test of leadership is the kind of world we leave to our children.”

While Inslee is promising to put climate front and center, he is not alone in the Democratic field in advocating for aggressive climate action.

In fact, each of the Democratic senators running for president — Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have endorsed the “Green New Deal,” a proposal to rapidly reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, effectively eliminating fossil fuels.