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Federal ‘Green New Deal’ Legislation Introduced in the House of Representatives

Democratic House Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey have introduced a Resolution termed the Green New Deal. The proposal comes in the wake an alarming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conveying that scientific research shows that if significant, or by many measures extraordinary, action is not taken to drastically reduce existing levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the next twelve years, then the catastrophic effects of global warming will take an inevitable course of destruction and dislocation of communities.

The Green New Deal has been criticized by republicans for its significant costs and ambition, and even some senior democrats alleged that the proposal is too costly and lacks substance. However, the proposal has maintained its hold in the media and will likely stay a key policy issue in the upcoming race of Democratic presidential nominees, many of whom have already embraced the proposal.

 

Background

The Green New Deal—an overt reference to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s expansive New Deal in the 1930s to launch job growth and social security initiatives in the wake of the Great Depression—builds upon an environmental ideology that some attribute to Thomas Friedman’s 2007 book, Hot Flat and Crowded, and has since been touched on by politicians since, including in President Obama’s stimulus bill. The overarching goal of the Green New Deal is to: 1) achieve “emissions neutrality” and reduce existing GHG levels, 2) create high-income job opportunities in the enactment of this environmental goal, and 3) achieve socio-economic justice in doing so.

 

The Proposal

The Green New Deal calls for the establishment of a select committee that would be charged with developing an action plan to address climate change and environmental justice. The Green New Deal as it is not just about climate policy, however, as it also calls for transforming the economy by bringing significant job growth for large-scale investments in infrastructure. The proposal is far-reaching in this regard, and dictates that the plan shall include labor training, particularly in areas “where the fossil fuel industry holds significant control over the labor market,” and that such employment shall include:

 

  • . . .additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism.

The Green New Deal includes a mandate to obtain carbon neutrality and the goal of meeting 100 percent renewable energy load within ten years, something many states across the United States (California under SB 100, New Jersey by executive order, Washington, Massachusetts, Hawaii) have passed or proposed implementing, and over one hundred cities have committed to 100% renewable energy use by varying timeframes. The Green New Deal also calls for the building and upgrade of an energy-efficient “smart” grid, the development of “green” technology and the elimination of GHG emissions from the transportation, manufacturing and agricultural industries.

 

Reception and Criticisms

The Green New Deal has been met with skepticism from both sides of the political aisle, as even some democrats have characterized the proposal as deeply ambitious, with significant costs and little detail. In an interview House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the proposal as “the Green Dream, or whatever they call it” and California Senator Feinstein dismissed the proposal when confronted by a group of children protesting climate change.

In fact, republicans recently called for a vote on the proposal in with the political aim of dividing the democratic party. The republicans characterize the proposal as part of a “radical left-wing ideology.” Still, a number of candidates for the democratic presidential nomination have already come out in support of the Green New Deal, including Senator Corey Booker, Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Senator Kamala Harris. The candidates appear to recognize a growing movement within the democratic party, and significant grass-roots momentum from activist groups reacting to increasing climate warnings both from the scientific community and the increasing number of weather-related events– whether fires, flooding, tornados.

 

Conclusion and Implications

Regardless of whether the Green New Deal progresses towards legislation, the Proposal has effectively raised the issue of climate change as a serious point of concern for politicians and the public. Particularly in the backdrop of an increased number of extreme weather incidents throughout the globe, this will likely remain a key campaign issue into the 2020 presidential race. In the interim, a significant number of states are raising the issue at the local level.

(Lilly McKenna)