/How Michael Bennet would address climate change

How Michael Bennet would address climate change

Michael Bennet

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet’s new climate plan leaves much of the detailed policymaking for the first days of his potential administration. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on May 20 released his plan to fight climate change, making him the third candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee to unveil a broad proposal on the issue this cycle.

What would the plan do?

Bennet’s plan aims to put the nation on a path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or earlier, but it does not outline specific policies such as a carbon tax or clean energy mandates. Bennet says specifics policies would come “in the first 100 days of the administration” through talks with Congress and voters.

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Instead, the plan calls for a “Climate X Option” that would require utilities to provide “zero-emission energy to every household and business,” a new national conservation initiative and a “Climate Bank” to spur private investment. A net-zero goal would require any greenhouse gas emissions to be offset by reforestation or other techniques.

If Congress does not pass climate legislation, Bennet said he would use the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory powers to drive carbon reductions.

“I think the Clean Air Act is a very strong and flexible tool for requiring reductions from individual sectors,” the senator said on a press call Monday.

How much would it cost?

$1 trillion in federal spending over a decade.

Bennet would use that federal funding to launch a Climate Bank to “catalyze $10 trillion in private sector innovation and infrastructure investment in climate technologies at home and abroad,” according to the plan.

Who would it help?

Bennet says the “Climate X Option” will expand opportunities for Americans to choose clean energy technologies and the Climate Bank would create “new markets for American businesses not just at home, but also around the world.”

What have other Democrats proposed?

Bennet’s plan is less detailed than recent policy announcements from two of his rivals, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Early in May, Inslee released a plan for 100% clean energy, including mandating carbon-neutral power from the nation’s electric utilities by 2030 and a goal for zero-emission cars and small trucks by 2030. Last week, he bolstered those proposals with his Evergreen Economy Plan, a slate of 28 policies that he says will support the transition.

Late last month, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke unveiled his vision for the government and private sector to spend $5 trillion over 10 years on clean energy infrastructure. That plan, however, did not detail how the U.S. would reach dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of the other candidates have coalesced around ambitious climate action along the lines of the Green New Deal advanced by activists and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Who opposes it?

Republicans and the fossil fuel sector are likely to oppose a nationwide mandate for carbon-free power from electric utilities. They are also likely to fight any new greenhouse gas regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency in court.

Progressive Democrats and activists, conversely, are likely to call for more ambitious and specific plans from presidential candidates than Bennett’s initial plan lays out. In particular, activists in the Sunrise Movement and other left-of-center environmental groups have called for policies to end fossil fuel consumption.

How would it work?

Bennet’s plan leaves much of the detailed policymaking for the first days of his potential administration. In the first 100 days he would launch an initiative to “engage people from across the country” to develop the particulars of his climate policy. He would also convene world leaders for a “global climate summit.”

If Congress does not pass climate legislation, Bennet said on Monday that his EPA regulations could look similar to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut carbon from electric utilities before it was rolled back by President Trump.

“Although it’s our strong preference that Congress take on this issue, if a corruption of inaction continues to prevent it, we will act through the authority the Clean Air Act and other statutes grant the President,” the plan reads. “And we will commit the resources necessary to the Departments of Justice and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to defend that action in court.”

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