Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) recently introduced their much-anticipated framework for a Green New Deal. The accompanying resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives calls for massive investment in a green economy that would radically reduce climate emissions and enhance social justice nationwide.
“Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us, to our country, to the world," Ocasio-Cortez said on NPR of why this deal is so important. Senator Markey compared the Green New Deal to John F. Kennedy’s speech announcing the goal of going to the moon within 10 years, which inspired the country to achieve what many previously thought impossible.
For the past two years, addressing climate emissions has been off the table in the House and Senate and the executive branch has actively worked to weaken the regulations that would lower greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution. The simple fact that the Green New Deal puts climate change and social justice issues front and center and challenges us to shift to clean energy and a huge reduction in fossil fuels in 10 years is hugely important. And unlike climate solutions proposed in prior Congresses, the Green New Deal goes beyond putting a price on carbon and calls for crucial restructuring of the entire US economy. This bold vision is especially crucial as more and more Americans register their concerns about the impacts of global warming and growing inequality, and as scientific research calls for a rapid transition to climate solutions. Overall, the Green New Deal is proposing the solutions we need, at the speed and scale we need, to meet the twelve-year window scientists have given to put into place solutions that will avoid the worst of the climate crisis.
What Does the Green New Deal Call For?
The Green New Deal is clearly meant to be aspirational, and so it should be measured by the breadth and depth of its goals. Overall, those goals are inspiring, both in terms of the major transformation of the energy, transportation, farming and manufacturing sectors, and also for the fact that this transformation needs to benefit struggling Americans, by creating high-paying jobs and by protecting vulnerable communities. Some of the major environmental goals are:
- meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the US through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources;
- upgrading all existing buildings in the US and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability;
- spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the US and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible;
- working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the US to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible (which includes supporting family farms, soil health, and healthy foods for all);
- overhauling transportation systems in the US to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including zero emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, and increased public transportation and high-speed rail.
The Green New Deal also contains a strong social justice platform that recognizes the need to include all Americans in the benefits of a green economy by creating spurring economic development, high-paying union jobs and training, involving communities in decision making, and building community ownership—particularly in communities that most impacted by pollution and climate change. It expressly protects the rights of indigenous peoples who have been egregiously impacted by fossil fuels. It also calls for high-quality health care, housing, jobs, and access to clean air and water for all.
Green America has long called for a green economy that combines environmental sustainability and social justice together and it is inspiring to see a major effort in Congress that is calling for a truly green economy for all.
Concerns with the Green New Deal
The overall goals of the Green New Deal are laudable and long overdue. In order to achieve its robust vision, Green America recommends the following measures to help guarantee the success of a transition to a truly green economy:
- The resolution should call for a halt to fossil fuel leasing or the phase out of fossil fuel extraction, in keeping with the call of 600 environmental groups, including Green America to ensure that the Green New Deal rapidly ends our reliance on fossil fuels;
- The phrase “as much as is technologically feasible” should be bolstered and clarified throughout the resolution, so that it does not slow down the progress or impede the goals of the Green New Deal;
- Nuclear, natural gas, and coal-fired power plants should be clearly excluded from the allowable energy mix (even if they can be made to have zero carbon emissions);
- New refrigerant technologies should be supported since refrigeration is a major contributor to climate change, and according to Project Drawdown, reducing emissions from refrigerant technologies could yield the biggest climate impacts;
- The resolution should clarify that carbon sequestration needs to be achieved through agricultural means only, including crops and re-forestation, and call specifically for a move to regenerative agriculture with a reduction in pesticides that will restore soil health, sequester enough carbon to actually reverse climate emissions, and prevent the catastrophic extinction of pollinators and other insects and species worldwide.
- Waste reduction, reuse of materials, and effective recycling for responsible materials management that are urgently needed to reduce our climate and environmental footprint should be included as part of the solutions we need.
The Green New Deal is creating an important opening and new momentum for advancing bold solutions to the climate crisis and creating a truly green economy from which all Americans will benefit. In order to fulfill its promise, Green America recommends the specific changes outlined above.
Green America is encouraging our members to call their Representatives and encourage them to support a truly Green Deal. Here’s a message you can leave on voicemail or send through email:
“I support the vision of a New Green Deal – and want to ensure that it will transition the U.S. from fossil fuels to truly renewable sources of energy like solar and wind, electric vehicles, and will not allow for fossil fuels and nuclear energy to be considered part of the solution. The current resolution sketches out a bold agenda which we can and must continue to strengthen, such as including the need to lower emissions from refrigerants and ending the extraction of fossil fuels. I applaud the fact that the Green New Deal works to create high paying jobs and healthcare for all, aims to protect vulnerable and indigenous communities, and I urge that communities of color, indigenous communities, and other economically marginalized communities are included in further legislative drafting and hearings.”