Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a new package to combat climate change. Their “Green New Deal” would ideally restructure the United States Economy, and eliminate all U.S. carbon emissions by 2030—a large undertaking, climate experts say.
“Where we need to be targeting really is a net-zero carbon economy by about 2050, which itself is an enormous challenge and will require reductions in carbon emissions much faster than have been achieved historically,” said Jesse Jenkins, a postdoctoral environmental fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, to NPR. “2030 might be a little bit early to be targeting.”
The Green New Deal aims to meet ambitious goals in reducing carbon emissions while creating jobs, booting the economy and paying special attention to marginalized groups. The bill aims for a “10-year national mobilizations” toward accomplishing a series of goals.
These goals include: “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the united states though clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources;” “upgrading all existing buildings,” for energy efficiency; working with agricultural workers, “to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions;” reworking transportation systems to reduce emissions, including expanding availability of electric cars and expanding high-speed rail to, “a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” The goals conclude with, “high-quality” health care for all Americans.
These goals are lofty, and would be very difficult to implement and transition into, not to mention that they would cost trillions upon trillions of dollars. The Green New Deal provides a loose framework of goals, without guidance on how to implement policies. Nevertheless, Ocasio-Cortez supports the legislation.
“Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold, are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in an interview. “It could be part of a larger solution, but no one has actually scoped out what that larger solution would entail. And so that’s really what we’re trying to accomplish with the Green New Deal.”
While the Green New Deal has become a central tenet of progressive Democratic policy in the past year, the idea is over a decade old. In 2003, the idea was posited in an environmental convention covered by the San Francisco Chronicle. The term was even used about President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, which contained $90 billion allocated to environmental initiatives.
Despite strong backing for the bill on the progressive left, the legislation appears unlikely to pass. House leadership is not prioritizing the idea, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied requests for a special committee to put Green New Deal policies together. She says that the bill is one of any number of environmental legislation the body may consider.
“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” said Pelosi to Politico. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?”
Moderate House Democrats may also have a hard time backing the bill, as many of them come from swing districts that may not support such progressive policies. For Republicans as well, the bill will likely be unappealing.
“Someone’s going to have to prove to me how [eliminating carbon emissions] can be accomplished, because it looks to me like for the foreseeable future we’re gonna be using a substantial amount of fossil fuels,” said Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, speaking to NPR.
The resolution is also unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Regardless, the Green New Deal is becoming a pivotal issue in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election.
“Most of politics is getting people excited enough to show up and vote for you. And I think that a Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all — these are ideas that are big enough to get people excited and show up to vote for you,” said Sean Mcelwee, co-founder of the progressive think tank Data for Progress, to NPR.