The Green New Deal: What Is It, Really?
Posted: March 19th, 2019Authors: Kayla T.
On Thursday, February 7th, 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced H.Res.109, a resolution calling for a “Green New Deal”. There are many articles and opinion pieces floating around about the Green New Deal, so I thought taking an objective look at H.Res.109 to determine exactly what it is (or isn’t) would be helpful.
IMPORTANT DISTINCTION: The Green New Deal is a non-binding resolution that does not, by itself, create any new laws or programs. So everyone can put down the pitchforks for now. The Green New Deal is a blueprint for the types of programs that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and supporting lawmakers believe need to be instituted for the U.S. to meet the goals presented in H.Res.109.
Now first things first – why was H.Res.109 introduced? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Global Change Research Program released an October 2018 report titled “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C” and a November 2018 report titled “Fourth National Climate Assessment”, respectively, which concluded:
- Human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change over the past century;
- Climate change is causing rising sea levels, an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events;
- Global warming ≥ 2°C beyond pre-industrialized levels will cause:
- Mass migration from regions most affected by climate change;
- More than $500,000,000,000 in lost annual economic output in the U.S. by year 2100;
- Wildfires that, by year 2050, will annually burn at least twice as much forest area in the western U.S. than in the years preceding 2019;
- A loss of more than 99% of all coral reefs;
- More than 350 million more people to be exposed to deadly heat stress by year 2050;
- Risk of $1,000,000,000,000 in damage to infrastructure and coastal real estate in the U.S.; and
- Global warming < 1.5°C will avoid the most severe impacts of a climate change. This will require:
- Global reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 40 – 60% by year 2030; and
- Net-zero global emissions by year 2050.
The Green New Deal was introduced in response to these reports to provide a massive, comprehensive policy package to combat the reported future impacts of climate change.
What actually is the Green New Deal? In broad terms, the Green New Deal aims to eliminate U.S. GHG emissions and remake the economy/energy sector by investing in new jobs and infrastructure, all while protecting “frontline and vulnerable communities” such as indigenous people, rural communities, low-income workers, the disabled, the elderly, and minorities.
The Green New Deal challenges the U.S. to meet the following goals in a 10-year period:
- Achieve net-zero GHG emissions;
- Create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the U.S.;
- Invest in infrastructure and industry to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st Century;
- Secure clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all people; and
- Promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of frontline vulnerable communities.
By now you might be thinking, “How would we pull this off”? This is the main question on everyone’s mind. The fact is, that’s unknown. Again, H.Res.109 provides a blueprint for the programs that some believe would allow the U.S. to meet those 10-year goals. However, in practice, the actual programs would need to be designed, engineered, funded, and ultimately accepted by impacted communities as appropriate. For reference, the types of programs and projects presented in H.Res.109 include, but are not limited to:
- Meeting 100% of U.S. power demand through zero-emission energy sources by expanding and upgrading existing renewable power sources and establishing new sources;
- Upgrading existing buildings for maximum efficiency and durability and ensuring all future infrastructure bills address climate change;
- Removing GHG emissions from manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation industries as much as technologically feasible. This would be achieved through investments into programs such as renewable energy manufacturing, family farming/sustainable land use, and public transit/high speed rail; and
- Removing existing atmospheric GHG through soil carbon storage techniques (e.g., carbon sequestration, afforestation).
The Green New Deal recognizes that accomplishing these goals is an enormous undertaking and will completely alter our current economy and workforce. Since many of these projects will need to be carried out by the affected communities themselves, H.Res.109 is attempting to incentivize community mobilization by providing community “safety nets”, such as:
- Providing public ownership stakes and returns on investment, adequate capital, technical expertise, and supporting policies;
- Creating high-quality union jobs and/or guaranteed jobs for workers who transition to “clean” jobs;
- Enforcing and creating trade regulations to promote domestic job and manufacturing growth; and
- Providing universal health care and affordable housing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) has announced that he plans to bring the Green New Deal to a Senate vote. As of March 19th, the vote has not occurred and is not yet scheduled. Again, it is important to note that even if this resolution is passed, it does not itself create any new laws or programs. It would only provide a target for future programs and a political consensus on climate change ideology. It is curious that a few of the community “safety nets” cited in the document are currently political “hot potatoes” that are not universally embraced by the primary political parties and their constituents. The evolution of the Green New Deal will likely play out over the next several years in a contentious manner and it will be interesting to see how it either evolves into a workable policy or is driven to extinction.
That’s all for now. As always, we will continue to watch closely for developments. Please comment your thoughts below or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.