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Green New Deal: Seeds of Change

Problem

Did you know that climate change could cost the US economy billions of dollars by the end of the century? Between crop failures, natural disasters, and more environmental impacts, the price adds up fast. Did you stop and think about who is disproportionately impacted by these effects? It’s low-income people and communities of color, and they tend to be ill-equipped to pay the cost. Have you ever considered how we can tackle climate change and support the people who are most affected at the same time? 

Solution

In 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward J. Markey introduced the Green New Deal. The same year, the resolution was voted down by the Republican-majority Senate. However, it remains a key component of the progressive political agenda. 

Definition of Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is a proposed policy resolution that addresses climate change and economic inequality in the United States. It is a non-binding piece of legislation that aims to decarbonize the economy over ten years by spurring large-scale government investment into clean energy and public projects.

The Green New Deal draws on President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, a set of public works initiatives launched in the 1930s to help the American public recover from the Great Depression. Although Roosevelt’s New Deal brought relief to millions of Americans, it furthered segregation and systemic racism. The Green New Deal addresses the faults of the original New Deal by incorporating racial justice and reparations.

What Does It Say?

Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s Green New Deal strives to provide all people of the United States with high-quality healthcare and education, affordable housing, economic security, and access to clean water, air, healthy food, and nature. The resolution also calls on the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by banning crude oil exports, creating extensive and efficient public transportation, upgrading all existing buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, and making clean energy technology affordable and accessible, among many other projects.

One proposed project that simulates Roosevelt’s New Deal is the federal job guarantee: providing high-quality jobs with sustainable wages for anyone who wants one. The resolution does not specify what kind of jobs would be provided, but proponents of the bill suggest that emission-reducing projects and new jobs could go hand-in-hand. The creation of new power grids, energy-efficient transportation, and clean energy technologies all require paid labor. Under the Green New Deal, the government could pay architects to design comfortable public housing, gardeners to maintain public parks, teachers to provide education, and doctors and nurses to provide healthcare. 

The Green New Deal strives to ensure that the transition to a clean economy is equitable for all, emphasizing that frontline workers and vulnerable communities must be heard and involved in its development. The Deal also demands that all indigenous treaties and agreements be honored, preventing pipelines and other projects from being constructed on treaty lands without prior consent. While indigenous activists agree that the Green New Deal is a step forward, many are concerned that it is not enough.

Opposition to the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal has faced backlash from both the Right and the Center. Conservatives argue that it is too broad and its goals are too lofty. The resolution has also divided Democrats, some deeming it too progressive, not bipartisan, and unrealistic. According to polls, the majority of the American public likes the idea of a Green New Deal, but is apprehensive about its potential cost, which has been estimated by the American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute, as between 50 and 93 trillion dollars over nine years. 

Defense of the Green New Deal

Proponents of the Green New Deal maintain that every percent of warming avoided will save lives, making government spending worthwhile. Supporters also argue that projects implemented under the resolution would pay for themselves over time. One study estimates that the resolution could actually save taxpayers two trillion dollars because the effects of unmitigated climate change are so costly. 

The Green New Deal does not specify how it would be financed. Some economists argue that it is too early to estimate the costs of potential projects initiated under the Deal. In fact, the resolution itself would have no cost because it is a set of goals, not policies. 

So What

Although the Green New Deal has succeeded in making Americans excited about climate policy, it faces an uphill battle. The Green New Deal would have to pass the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House before becoming law, requiring a progressive majority in each.

The passage of a Green New Deal in the United States would impact the global economy and set an example for climate action. Not only does the resolution bring climate policy into the public eye, but it emphasizes the intersectionality of climate justice; it recognizes the intertwining social and economic power structures that heighten the negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change on marginalized communities. Environmentalists are alerting us of the implications of continuing to function in a high-carbon economy. Yet, the Green New Deal is still unlikely to become law without major political upheaval.

Think Further

  1. Why is it important to address the economic and social impacts of climate change and not just the environmental impacts?
  2. Do you think the Green New Deal can be altered to make it more appealing to Congress without losing its key aspects? Would it be better to make a new proposal entirely? Explain.
  3. What can you do to support the communities most affected by the impacts of climate change?

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Learn More

  1. Aronoff, et al. A Planet to Win: Why we Need a Green New Deal. 2019. https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/435899-senate-blocks-green-new-deal.
  2. Friedman, Lisa. “What Is the Green New Deal?” 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/climate/green-new-deal-questions-answers.html. 
  3. McDonald, Jessica. “How Much Will the ‘Green New Deal’ Cost?” FactCheck.org. 2019. https://www.factcheck.org/2019/03/how-much-will-the-green-new-deal-cost/. 
  4. Ocasio-Cortez, A., Markey, E. “H. RES. 109.” 2019. https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf. 
  5. Roberts, David. “The Green New Deal, explained.” 2019. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/12/21/18144138/green-new-deal-alexandria-ocasio-cortez.
  6. “Talking Points on the AOC-Markey Green New Deal (GND) Resolution.” Indigenous Environmental Network. https://www.ienearth.org/talking-points-on-the-aoc-markey-green-new-deal-gnd-resolution/.