The Green New Deal resolution proposed to Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey has ignited intense debate over how to respond to the threat of climate collapse. Rather than a law that implements any specific program, the resolution outlines a comprehensive blueprint for taking climate action at the federal level. So what is actually in the GND?
The fourteen-page resolution is a quick read on Ocasio-Cortez’s website. In essence, it lays out a plan to provide well-paying, highly-needed jobs that will help the United States reach net-zero emissions. It aims to create living-wage, union jobs by updating our energy grid, building up renewable energy sources, increasing access to public transportation, building high-speed rail, and renovating buildings to be energy efficient. In so doing, the plan seeks to “promote justice and equity” for many marginalized groups that the GND calls “frontline and vulnerable communities.” (pg 5, E) With solar jobs growing at 17x the rate of the overall economy, renewable energy and these related sectors of the economy arguably possess an unparalleled ability to help millions of people improve their economic circumstances while ensuring a livable planet for future generations.
Along with showing what the United States can do to cut emissions and create jobs, the resolution establishes a number of goals for the nation’s overall quality of life in many other ways as well. The GND also seeks to ensure access to healthy food, clean water, affordable housing, higher education and affordable healthcare to all Americans. So, the proposal is like a wish list for the future in the form of this country’s response to a global crisis.
While some critics have charged that such a comprehensive set of policies would cost too much, the reality is that polluting industries such as fossil fuels and nuclear power have received countless billions in federal subsidies for decades. This long-standing tradition of federal support for energy could simply be redirected towards far more environmentally friendly, job-creating alternatives. Furthermore, hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent annually to fund our heavily polluting military’s unnecessary, unjust wars for oil could be redirected towards the GND as well. Although renewable energy has increasingly become more economical than fossil fuels, there are an abundance of financial options which would not only help reduce pollution in their own right, but also ensure that any additional funding needed to meet the GND’s many goals is made available as well.
Yet whether the vision of the GND will be enacted at the federal level depends a great deal on who controls the Presidency, House, and Senate. Beyond partisan politics, establishment figures from both parties have opposed this much needed comprehensive approach to global warming. But we cannot afford to wait for these national circumstances to improve. We must do everything we can now to ensure that the principles of the Green New Deal are implemented at every level.
Cities and states across the U.S. have already committed to renewable energy goals. New York City passed legislation called the Climate Mobilization Act, which is their own version of the Green New Deal. Before Ocasio-Cortez was running for office, a small city in Texas called Georgetown became the first city in the traditionally red state to get 100% of its energy from renewable sources. Across the country, cities are showing that the principles of the Green New Deal resonate with voters, and that policies reducing carbon emissions save money.
Local solutions will ultimately drum up support for a national Green New Deal. When skeptics see small-scale successes, they become more hopeful that large-scale solutions are both possible and popular. Currently, a lot of momentum surrounds this particular resolution, but even if it passes, it cannot bring tangible change on its own. We must form a voting block and build a social movement that makes addressing climate change a top priority. This means backing candidates with the most compelling climate policy agendas, and it also means working within our communities on practical, grass-roots projects.
This way, we can turn excitement around the vision of the Green New Deal into grass-roots successes and policy changes alike, so that every state in America, red blue or purple, can be green.
Five things to advocate for in your city:
- 100% Renewable energy goals by 2030, with union jobs for workers to overhaul the energy grid, and a just transition for fossil fuel workers
- If your city has money invested in the fossil fuel industry, start a campaign for your city to divest, and put that money into eco-friendly funds
- Urban forestry projects that can employ locals, improve public health, and capture CO2 from the atmosphere
- Constructing a light-rail or subway system that will create thousands of jobs, reduce emissions, and reduce traffic
- Improved building codes so new developments have to be energy efficient and old buildings have a way of being upgraded