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Beto O’Rourke’s $5 trillion climate change plan would ‘guarantee’ net zero emissions by 2050

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has introduced his plan to combat climate change — a $5 trillion plan with a requirement of net-zero emissions by 2050.

A former Texas representative who lost a Senate race to Ted Cruz in 2018, O’Rourke has drawn a fair share of criticism early in his presidential candidacy for a lack of policy specifics, as well as his unwillingness to decline all fossil fuel money. But today, he unveiled his four-part framework for addressing climate change:

  1. Start Cutting Pollution on Day One and Taking Executive Actions to Lead on Climate
  2. Mobilize $5 Trillion for Climate Change with Investment in Infrastructure, Innovation, and Our People and Communities
  3. Guarantee our Net-Zero Emissions Ambition by 2050
  4. Defend our Communities That Are Preparing for and Fighting Against Extreme Weather

O’Rourke’s website has a full breakdown of the plan, which aims to re-enter the Paris agreement and seek a “more ambitious global plan for 2030 and beyond.” It also brings up that $5 trillion figure, and hints at how he plans on paying for it:

That is why, in the very first bill he sends to Congress, Beto will launch a 10-year mobilization of $5 trillion directly leveraged by a fully paid-for $1.5 trillion investment — the world’s largest-ever climate change investment in infrastructure, innovation, and in our people and communities. The bill will be funded with the revenues generated by structural changes to the tax code that ensure corporations and the wealthiest among us pay their fair share and that we finally end the tens of billions of dollars of tax breaks currently given to fossil fuel companies.

O’Rourke’s website also says “we need a guarantee that we will, in fact, achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and get halfway there by 2030.” The site notes these ambitions are in line with those of the Green New Deal.

He aims to enact a “legally enforceable standard” within his first 100 days of president that would “send a clear price signal to the market while putting in place a mechanism that will ensure the environmental integrity of this endeavor.”

Additional notes in the framework include goals to reduce methane leakage, the introduction of service grants to deploy clean energy, and a net zero carbon budget for federal lands by 2030.

O’Rourke’s plan also looks to strengthen fuel economy standards, and to set “a trajectory to rapidly accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.”

Fossil Fueled?

O’Rourke recently drew criticism for declining to sign a pledge that said he wouldn’t accept money from the fossil fuel industry when confronted by the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate organization that’s pushing the Green New Deal.

The site reveals that while a number of Democratic candidates have signed the pledge, O’Rourke is listed among those who have “not yet signed.”

O’Rourke clarified that while he wouldn’t take donations from executives, PACs, or lobbyists in the oil and gas industry, he would take contributions from workers. As Bloomberg quoted him earlier this month:

“If you work in the oil fields, you answer the phones in the office, if you’re one of my fellow Texans in one of our state’s largest employers, we’re not going to single you out from being unable to participate in our democracy.”

As of this writing, O’Rourke is polling around fourth to sixth place in the most recent Democratic primary polls, as per FiveThirtyEight.

Electrek’s Take

The criticisms on O’Rourke’s lack of policy particulars have been well-earned. But this new climate plan offers more detail than most other candidates have to this point, with a big figure that everyone will be sure to grab onto.

Beto’s plan may not be as ambitious overall as the Green New Deal, and some parts may still seem a bit vague — would carbon pricing be a part of that mechanism which sends “a clear price signal to the market?” There’s also no mention of solar or wind power. But the plan does offer some details and distinct ideas, and overall, has a vision of what needs to be done.

Perhaps the best thing about the unveiling of this plan is what it may mean for climate and energy discussion going forward in the race for the Democratic nomination. If Beto is bringing a roadmap like this to the table, other candidates are going to have to start offering up more details, as well.

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Phil Dzikiy is an Editor/Writer with Electrek/9to5Mac. Tips: