Seemingly out of nowhere, the bold new climate policy initiative everyone began talking about in 2019 was 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?
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.
According to the 2021 Green New Deal Resolution, the specific goals of the deal are as follows:
- “achieving greenhouse gas and toxic emissions reductions needed to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming;
- establishing millions of high-wage union jobs and ensuring economic security for all;
- investing in infrastructure and industry;
- securing clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all; and
- promoting justice and equality.”
These goals would be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization effort, which would include:
- “building smart power grids (i.e., power grids that enable customers to reduce their power use during peak demand periods);
- upgrading all existing buildings and constructing new buildings to achieve maximum energy and water efficiency;
- removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and agricultural sectors;
- cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites;
- ensuring businesspersons are free from unfair competition; and
- providing higher education, high-quality health care, and affordable, safe, and adequate housing to all.”
Sponsors of the Green New Deal
While the most visible sponsor of the Green New Deal are Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey, the Green New Deal in its current iteration began with the Sunrise Movement. Founded in 2017, 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 to now include hundreds of local chapters throughout the US.
History and development of the Green New Deal
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.
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.
Next, 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.
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 was hardly alone in supporting the Green New Deal. And even beyond the Congresspeople already committed to supporting the platform, the 2018 midterms saw seven governors elected who ran on climate-first policies, implying the political will to act is strong.
What’s the latest with the Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal Resolution was officially released by Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey on February 7, 2019 as a fourteen-page document. However, in March 2019, an early vote was called on the resolution, resulting in a defeat on the Senate floor.
In April 2021, Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey reintroduced the the Green New Deal Resolution at the National Mall and it was referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
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. The most recent bipartisan infrastructure bill just written at the end of July 2021 leaves out crucial climate and clean energy policy, but the Biden Administration is developing a larger bill which would 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.