Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders looks on as panel members discuss his criminal justice reform plan during a town hall meeting this week in Columbia, S.C. (Meg Kinnard/AP)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday unveiled a sweeping $16.3 trillion plan that aims to avert a “climate catastrophe” and create 20 million new jobs in the process.

The blueprint is the most expensive by far of those released by Democratic White House hopefuls as they seek to position themselves as the contender most dedicated to combating climate change, a salient issue for liberal primary voters.

The release of Sanders’s plan comes a day after the exit from the race of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who had built his bid around creating an “evergreen economy” for the United States.

Sanders was an early supporter of a nonbinding congressional plan promoted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) among others, known as the Green New Deal. Sanders’s plan, which attempts to build on that, goes by the same name.

His plan calls for reaching 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and “complete decarbonization” by 2050. He pledges to declare climate change a national emergency if elected president, calling it an “existential threat.”

“We need a president who has the courage, the vision, and the record to face down the greed of fossil fuel executives and the billionaire class who stand in the way of climate action,” Sanders’s plan says. “We need a president who welcomes their hatred.”

Sanders claims the plan would “pay for itself” over 15 years. He projects revenue would be raised from several sources, including “litigation, fees and taxes” on the fossil fuel industry and new income tax revenue from the 20 million “good paying” jobs he pledges to create.

The jobs Sanders envisions include those in construction, energy efficiency retrofitting, sustainable agriculture and engineering.

Sanders compares the investment in his plan to those the United States put behind the New Deal and World War II.

By comparison, a climate plan released by former vice president Joe Biden in June carried a $1.7 trillion price tag over the coming decade, while a plan put forward by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that month was estimated to cost $2 trillion over the same time frame.

Sanders has a pair of events scheduled Thursday in California to highlight his new plan. He is scheduled to tour wildfire damage in Paradise and later hold a town hall on the “climate crisis” in Chico.

Ten Democratic candidates, including Sanders, are scheduled to appear early next month at “Climate Crisis Town Hall” hosted by CNN.