2020 Presidential Race

Julián Castro unveils climate plan centered on Green New Deal principles

The plan carries a $10 trillion price tag and calls on the country to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Julián Castro spoke at a presidential candidate forum in Houston on Saturday.

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Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Tuesday began rolling out his campaign’s $10 trillion plan to address climate change, an initiative that aims to have all electricity in the U.S. be clean and renewable by 2035.

In a statement, the former mayor of San Antonio said his proposal centers on principles of the Green New Deal, an ambitious and controversial plan spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York. Over the course of the next decade, Castro is calling for “immediate and significant” reduction in greenhouse gas emissions until the country achieves net-zero emissions by 2045 at the latest.

“Right now, the climate crisis is already devastating our communities, our homes, and our families,” Castro said in a statement. “Severe storms, deadly hurricanes, massive floods, extreme droughts, and wildfires are now a normal occurrence, destroying homes and businesses, and shrinking our economy.”

If elected, he said his first executive action will be to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement that President Donald Trump withdrew the country from in 2017. Over the next decade, Castro is calling for significantly reducing carbon emissions by transitioning off of fossil fuels to clean energy.

During his first 100 days in office, Castro said he would propose legislation to address and dismantle structures of environmental racism, a type of discrimination where communities of color and low-income communities are forced to live in close proximity to environmentally hazardous or degraded environments, such as hazardous waste sites or pollution. To that end, Castro said he’d propose new civil rights bills like requiring all federal actions be reviewed for environmental and health impacts on low-income and marginalized communities.

He’s also calling for the creation of a new “Economic Guarantee for Fossil Fuel Workers” to support workers affected by his administration’s transition away from fossil fuels. In addition, he would use $200 billion for a Green Infrastructure Fund to invest in physical infrastructure such as smart grids and electric vehicle charging stations.

The plan also sets an ambitious goal for the U.S. to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 and at least a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the other Texan in the Democratic presidential primary, called for getting to net-zero emissions by 2050 and halfway there by 2030.

“Climate change is the most serious threat our planet faces today,” Castro said. “Whether it’s rising sea levels, extreme weather events, or toxic pollution, we know the most vulnerable communities are feeling its effects first.”

But his plan carries a significant price tag, directing $10 trillion over the next decade to “create ten million good paying jobs, transition away from fossil fuels, build a 100% clean-energy economy and establish a National Climate Council.” Castro said the money would come from federal, state, local and private investments.

Critics have pointed to the plan’s cost as one of the main reasons not to implement it.

“If you reduce all carbon emissions by 2030, then by 2050 we’ll be 0.097 degrees cooler on Earth. It’s definitely not worth it,” said former state Rep. Jason Isaac, senior manager and distinguished fellow at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. “To get to 50% renewable is incredibly costly, and these plans call for 100% renewable.

“These plans just do nothing to improve the environment. [Democrats] are just doing this to be as far away from the president and the current administration as possible to set themselves out so they appear to the farthest left people possible, but not to the majority of the population who would be hammered by these policies.”

Still, the former housing secretary will pitch his plan to voters during a CNN climate town hall Wednesday, which he recently qualified for after he reached 2% in four polls. Each candidate will get a chance to convince voters that he or she can be the leading voice on the issue — which has dominated the Democratic primary and increasingly animated the party more broadly — after Washington state Gov. Jay Isnlee dropped his White House bid. The former Democratic presidential candidate made climate his No. 1 issue.

Castro noted his environmental intentions during his announcement speech earlier this year; still, climate change hasn’t been the most pressing issue for him, as it is for other, more progressive, candidates like U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have both been longtime vocal critics of the fossil fuel industry.

Disclosure: The Texas Public Policy Foundation has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.