by Kyle Schultz and Jen Stevenson
A number of recent reports have indicated overwhelmingly that on a global level, humans are not doing enough fast enough to counteract the worst effects of climate change. It is abundantly clear that we need to act swiftly and aggressively if we want to have a chance at avoiding these “worst” effects. U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is championing the “Green New Deal,” which is a sweeping reform that would transition the U.S. to a carbon neutral economy. (Sidebar: this is a gross understatement of what the GND actually involves!) Similar to its namesake, FDR’s New Deal, the aim of the Green New Deal is to stimulate the economy through government support of programs and jobs that will further the green energy economy. Revolutionary and ambitious, a Green New Deal has the potential to revolutionize the structure of the American economy.
The phrase “ Green New Deal” is sensational, but what exactly does it entail? Happily, the mandate “to promote economic and environmental justice and equality” is featured prominently as one of the plan’s first functions. Some other specifics in Ocasio-Cortez’s official proposal include the creation of a committee in congress that will be tasked with the creation of a plan to address climate change by January 1st, 2020. It must address how to meet 7 specific goals within 10 years of the acceptance of the plan.
Briefly, the 7 goals include:
- Meeting 100% of national power demand through renewable sources
- Building a national energy-efficient “smart” grid
- Upgrading buildings’ efficiency, comfort, and safety
- Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in industry through the investment in local scale agriculture
- Improving infrastructure and ensuring universal access to clean water
- Funding investment in actively reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
- Making the United States the undisputed global leader in green technologies and services
The Green New Deal just might be the future for climate policy. The plan has something for everyone; environmentalists will like the goal of becoming carbon neutral, patriots can get excited about America becoming an “undisputed international leader,” socially-minded folks can get behind the ideas of social and environmental justice peppered throughout the proposal, and everyone loves the idea of more jobs.
The Green New Deal is ambitious, idealistic, and very broad. It is inspirational enough to give people hope and sensational enough to catch the media’s attention, but is broad enough to allow room for negotiating and development of future details. The Yale Center For Climate Change found there is strong bipartisan support for a Green New Deal; in a December 2018 study, they reported 81% of registered voters said they would support a Green New Deal.
However, most people don’t know about the Green New Deal- in the same poll as above, 82% said they had heard “nothing at all” while only 18% and 3% said they had heard “a little” or “a lot”, respectively. So, in theory, voters support a Green New Deal; it means more jobs, cleaner energy, and infrastructure improvements. The key will be to keep the deal broad, and get voters to support it, regardless of party.
The Green New Deal isn’t a recipe for how to decarbonize the American economy, nor is it a solution to climate change. It is, however, a call for drastic change, and a framework that can guide the development of future policy. Decarbonizing the economy will be tough. Really tough. But the first step is deciding to take action, and committing to a better future, SOON. The plan for a Green New Deal moves beyond platitudinous statements, and calls for real change.