Seemingly out of nowhere, the bold new climate policy initiative everyone is talking about is the Green New Deal. But what exactly is the Green New Deal, where did it come from, and what has caused it to gain so much traction today?
The Green New Deal: the current plan
At its core, the Green New Deal is a climate policy. Based on the scientific consensus on climate change, as well as the new urgency resulting from the conclusions of the recent National Climate Assessment and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report, the Green New Deal calls for policies that will move to power 100% of the country’s energy needs with renewable energy.
Importantly, the policy platform goes beyond a call for 100% renewable energy. In fact, it calls for many of the social and economic programs championed by its namesake policy, FDR’s New Deal. The Green New Deal calls for policies that make the energy transition equitably, providing job growth for new populations and retraining for fossil-fuel industry employees, as well as development and financial support for the impoverished and polluted communities that are often hit worst and first by climate change.
While the finer points of some of the bold policies associated with the Green New Deal are still in development, the movement is well underway. From a proposal to bar committee members on House energy commissions from accepting campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies, to the sit-in in front of Speak Pelosi’s office, to the 45 US Representatives who have already pledged support for the movement, there’s a reason the Green New Deal is making so many headlines.
The sponsor of the Green New Deal
While the most visible sponsor of the Green New Deal is recently elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Green New Deal in its current iteration began with the Sunrise Movement. A year-and-a-half old organization, the Sunrise Movement was born of veterans of the youth climate action world as a way to engage with even more young people in the political process. The organization has grown rapidly in eighteen months to now include hundreds of local chapters throughout the US.
The Green New Deal is not a new policy initiative. In fact, the platform first entered the public political discussion over a decade ago. But the confluence of a few major factors has led to the Green New Deal’s current moment in the sun.
First, the release of two major climate reports within a couple of months of each other during the fall of 2018 drove home the urgency we are faced with to take action on the climate. The reports concluded that climate change is already occurring, with warming having already surpassed initial estimates, leaving just over a decade to act to avoid or mitigate the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Second, the Sunrise Movement truly excelled at grassroots organizing during the 2018 midterm campaign and beyond, both in terms of raising funds and the reach that the organization managed across the country. The structure of the organization and focus on younger voters helped to expand the Sunrise Movement’s reach on a fairly limited budget.
Third, the growing movement caught a rising star as a sponsor in Representative Ocasio-Cortez, who began to tout the platform soon after arriving in Washington DC. The iconic photo of her speaking with the Sunrise Movement protesters outside of Speaker Pelosi’s office helped bring the Green New Deal into the mainstream consciousness. However, Representative Ocasio-Cortez is hardly alone in supporting the Green New Deal. And even beyond the Congresspeople already committed to supporting the platform, the midterms saw seven governors elected who ran on climate-first policies, implying the political will to act is strong.
And finally, as we heard while in DC with SEIA, the best chance at a bipartisan bill in the new session of Congress is an infrastructure bill. Such a bill will undoubtedly touch on many different components of the energy industry, making it the perfect opportunity to rethink how our nation is powered.
How can you get involved?
To help organize for the Green New Deal, check out the “Take Action” portion of the movement’s website. Want to make your own transition to powering your energy needs with 100% renewable energy? The best way to do so is to offset your electricity consumption by installing solar panels on your property. Check out the free EnergySage Solar Calculator to see how much of your electricity need can be met with solar power.