Mike Johnston 2020 Colorado

In this June 18, 2018 file photo, Colorado Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston responds to a question during a televised debate in Denver. Johnston on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, announced he will run against U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Mike Johnston released a "Green New Deal" proposal Thursday that calls for moving the country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 in an effort to combat climate change and boost the economy.

"There is nothing more important than the issue of climate change," the Democrat said in an interview. "This is the crisis the entire country should be focused on, and this is the crisis I'll be focused on as senator."

Johnston's proposal landed the same day congressional Democrats unveiled their own plan with the same name and many of the same features.

"We thought it was important for us to come out with a Green New Deal that spoke to the priorities of Colorado and made sure we have a Colorado senator who's going to fight for this," Johnston said.

Johnston is one of six Democrats running in a primary to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a freshman considered the most vulnerable GOP senator in the country next year.

Last year, Johnston ran for governor on a platform that included moving Colorado to all-renewable energy by 2040. Former U.S. Rep Jared Polis, who won the Democratic primary and was elected governor, ran on the same plan. 

The Johnston plan released Thursday envisions achieving a "clean energy economy" by accelerating adoption of renewable energy sources, investing in carbon sequestration efforts and reducing energy use.

"This is an all hands on deck effort," he said in a release. "Our first step is to decarbonize the electric grid, and then we must transition our entire economy to this clean electric power."

The plan also includes retrofitting inefficient homes and other buildings, training workers — including employees in the traditional energy sector — and funding research in green energy technology.

"Colorado can lead the clean energy revolution that our nation and world demand," Johnston said. "Doing so will create tens of thousands of jobs in Colorado alone, build the infrastructure and economy of the future, and protect our planet for the next generations."

Although Johnston's proposal didn't include specific costs, he told Colorado Politics it will "both stimulate the economy and help protect the planet."

Republicans have denounced similar proposals as trillion-dollar boondoggles.

"We're focused on ways to do this that do not break the budget — places where incentives align, like retrofitting buildings, where you save taxpayers money," Johnston said.

Noting that wind and solar energy is cheaper to generate than coal-generated power, Johnston said: "It'll be cheaper to retire those plants than to continue paying for them."

In addition, he said, massive federal subsides for fossil fuel exploration "ought to be repealed to create a level playing field."

Johnston added that rolling back elements of the GOP tax cut could also pay for some of his plan. 

"One of the places we would focus is on trying to recover some of the costs put in place by the $2 trillion tax cut, look at places to roll those back where the money is not being passed on to employees," he said.

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