Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) came to Congress with the promise to create an economic plan to dramatically reduce—and later, to eliminate—the US’s share of climate change-driving greenhouse gas emissions.
On Thursday (Feb. 7), the newly-sworn-in Democratic representative from New York, along with Senator Ed Markey, the Democrat from Massachusetts, finally unveiled the plan, laying out the Green New Deal in 14 pages in the form of a House Resolution. You can read the Green New Deal here, thanks to NPR.
The document is a 10-year plan to eliminate the US’s carbon footprint by 2030 through a massive mobilization of renewable energy and energy-saving projects; It posits, among other things, to:
- Lift the share of power generated by wind and solar energy from the 10 percent it produces today, to nearly 100 percent within 10 years.
- It advocates dramatically upgrading local infrastructure, including upgrading all existing buildings in the US to “achieve maximal energy efficiency.”
- It proposes to “work collaboratively with farmers” to reduce the share of US emissions that come from agriculture.
The bill/resolution is the only one put forth from the US Congress that is in keeping with the scientific consensus of what must be done to avoid global climate catastrophe. The plan is broad in its approach by design; it is meant to spur specific legislation to achieve each of the goals it lays out. “Each of the national projects we lay out might be their own bills,” Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti told Vox.
Enacting the Green New Deal would require massive federal investment, much like what has been done in other moments of national emergency. “The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan,” she told the Huffington Post back in June.
It acknowledges that climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the US, which is also the position of the US Military. Considering that the US is responsible for roughly one-fifth of global emissions, and also has the capacity for developing high-tech solutions, it declares that the “the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation.”
As promised, it is an economic plan, with the intention to “create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States.”
Green New Deal: news and updates about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s climate plan: It’s a sweeping proposal to make the US carbon neutral by 2030.
After much anticipation, the Green New Deal is here. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) are introducing a sweeping plan to make the United States carbon neutral by 2030, invest in the sustainability of national infrastructure and industry, and create “millions” of jobs in the process.
The plan is wildly more ambitious than anything Democrats were talking about even two years ago. Its goals — achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs, providing for a just transition, securing clean air and water — are broadly popular. And the proposal avoids fights over carbon pricing, clean versus renewable energy, and concerns over a balanced budget — for now.
Politically, the Green New Deal is fundamentally about making climate change a central Democratic priority in 2020 — without shoving aside health care and the economy. Democrats have talked about climate change as an important issue for some time, but there has been little urgency in Congress to take action. The Green New Deal could mark a shift.
The resolution already has around 60 House co-sponsors and nine Senate co-sponsors, per the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein, but another goal of Ocasio-Cortez and climate organizers is to get support from 2020 Democrats.
There’s now an official Green New Deal. Here’s what’s in it. A close look at the fights it picks and the fights it avoids.
To actually make the target, though, the world must start reducing its carbon pollution immediately, and cut it in half by 2030. (Make that “at least” and likely “much more” for the U.S., which has caused around 25% of the heating thus far with just 4-5% of the world’s populace. The U.S. also has the technology and the economic strength to act and invest now).
Currently we’re nowhere close to on track. Global emissions levels just hit a record high, and even the Barack Obama administration’s climate policy did not put the United States close to making its part of the goal.
The Green New Deal aims to get us there—and remake the country in the process. It promises to give every American a job in that new economy: installing solar panels, retrofitting coastal infrastructure, manufacturing electric vehicles. In the 1960s, the U.S. pointed the full power of its military-technological industry at going to the moon. Ocasio-Cortez wants to do the same thing, except to save the planet.
For the first time in more than a decade, Democrats can approach climate policy with a sense of imagination. They can also approach it with a sense of humility, because their last two strategies didn’t work particularly well. When the party last controlled Congress, in 2009, Democrats tried to pass a national cap-and-trade bill, a type of policy that allows polluters to bid on the right to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It failed to pass in the Senate. Starting in 2011, President Obama tried to use the EPA’s powers under the Clean Air Act to fight carbon-dioxide emissions. After President Trump was elected, he terminated that effort by executive order.
Since then, Democrats in Congress have proposed no shortage of climate bills. A few of them even picked up Republican support. Some blue states have also tried to pass climate policy of their own, though the most ambitious of those efforts have failed. And as I wrote last year, the party has encountered new problems in its coalition. Some environmental groups have focused on closing coal plants and blocking pipeline projects, frustrating the labor movement, which appreciates the jobs that those projects bring.
From the successes, a pattern has emerged. Economists tend to prefer policies that work across the entire economy at once by integrating the costs of climate change into the price of gas, food, and other consumer goods. But voters—who have more quotidian concerns than optimally elegant economic policy—don’t always feel the same way. They don’t want gas prices to go up. And that means voters support policies that remake one sector of the economy at a time, usually by mandating the use of technology. Economists like to disparage these policies as “kludges” or “command and control.” But Americans like them.
And what should they have done? Governors, like presidents, are constrained; they can’t do much without the support of state legislatures. And dirt is a worthy topic for climate regulation. As it happens, a large amount of carbon sits in American dirt. If that carbon escapes into the atmosphere, it will worsen climate change. Should a small nation ever appoint you despot of all climate laws, please do something about dirt. But generally and politically speaking, dirt does not get the people going. Upon hearing the slogan “Dirt: Now More Than Ever,” most voters will not picture overflowing cornucopias of prosperity. They will picture bath time.
I have come to think of this tension as climate policy’s Boring as Dirt problem: the bad problem. The bad problem recognizes that climate change is an interesting challenge. It is scary and massive and apocalyptic, and its attendant disasters (especially hurricanes, wildfires, and floods) make for good TV. But the policies that will address climate change do not pack the same punch. They are technical and technocratic and quite often dull. At the very least, they will never be as immediate as climate change itself. Floods are powerful, but stormwater management is arcane. Wildfires are ravenous, but electrical-grid upgrades are tedious. Climate change is frightening, but dirt is boring. That’s the bad problem.
Some version of the bad problem probably exists for every issue. Paying for exorbitant cancer drugs is an outrage, but advocating for state-level insurance laws that could reduce their cost is onerous. In a way, addressing the bad problem is part of what elected officials are supposed to do in a republic. But it’s a special problem for climate change, with its all-encompassing cause and countless diffuse harms. To fix climate change, you have to pass laws about dirt. Then you have to keep them passed.
This policy—a job for every American who wants one—reflects what the party learned from fighting Obamacare’s repeal. Obamacare provides a revealing view into how economists think about policy versus how people experience it. That is, as far as policy makers are concerned, Obamacare comprises a set of clever tweaks and rules meant to change how insurance markets work and lower the cost of health care. Before the law passed, Democratic lawmakers cared deeply about getting those tweaks right.
Yet Obamacare didn’t survive because those new rules worked. They did work, but, in fact, voters hate them. Instead, Obamacare survived because it gave two new superpowers to voters. The first was the power never to be denied health insurance for preexisting conditions, and the second was free or cheap health insurance through Medicaid. The reason Americans jammed the Capitol Hill switchboards last year to protest the repeal—and pulled the lever for Democrats in November—wasn’t that they valued Obamacare’s elegant cost-control mechanism. They wanted to keep their superpowers. Read: Did Obamacare repeal hurt the Republicans?
“People who are receiving benefits, they’re going to react pretty strongly to that being taken away from them,” said the political scientist and UC Berkeley professor Paul Pierson in a conversation with Vox last year. “A taxpayer is paying for a lot of stuff and cares a little bit about each thing, but the person who’s receiving the benefits is going to care enormously about that.”
Fixing climate change will include lots of technocratic tweaks, lots of bills about dirt. They will be hard to defend against later repeal. So it would be nice if lawmakers could wed them to a new benefit, a superpower that people will fight for years after passage. Hence the job guarantee—a universal promise of employment meant to win over Americans in general and create more union jobs in particular.