Green New Deal

The Green New Deal (GND) is a set of proposed economic stimulus programs in the United States that aim to address climate change and economic inequality. The name refers to the New Deal, a set of social and economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression. The Green New Deal combines Roosevelt's economic approach with modern ideas such as renewable energy and resource efficiency. A previous policy similar to the Green New Deal was the 2008 tax incentive for solar panels.

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Explanation

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The Green New Deal (GND)[1][2] is a set of proposed economic stimulus programs in the United States that aim to address climate change and economic inequality.[3][4] The name refers to the New Deal, a set of social and economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression.[5] The Green New Deal combines Roosevelt's economic approach with modern ideas such as renewable energy and resource efficiency.[6] A previous policy similar to the Green New Deal was the 2008 tax incentive for solar panels.[7]

History

Sustainable agriculture combined with renewable energy generation

An early use of the term "Green New Deal" was by journalist Thomas Friedman.[8] He argued in favor of the idea in two pieces that appeared in The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine.[9][10] In January 2007, Friedman wrote:

If you have put a windmill in your yard or some solar panels on your roof, bless your heart. But we will only green the world when we change the very nature of the electricity grid – moving it away from dirty coal or oil to clean coal and renewables. And that is a huge industrial project – much bigger than anyone has told you. Finally, like the New Deal, if we undertake the green version, it has the potential to create a whole new clean power industry to spur our economy into the 21st century.[11]

This approach was subsequently taken up by the Green New Deal Group,[12] which published its eponymous report on July 21, 2008.[13] The concept was further popularized and put on a wider footing when the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) began to promote it. On October 22, 2008 UNEP's Executive Director Achim Steiner unveiled the Global Green New Deal initiative that aims to create jobs in "green" industries, thus boosting the world economy and curbing climate change at the same time.[14] It was then turned into an extensive plan by the Green Party of the United States. It was a key part of the platform of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in 2012 and 2016, as well as Howie Hawkins, who helped to write it, in his campaign for governor of New York.[15]

Notable proponents

Individuals

Organizations

  • The Climate Mobilization, which advocates a "World War II-scale economic mobilization to restore a safe climate."
  • The think tank Data for Progress laid out a progressive vision in their policy report "A Green New Deal" in September 2018.[51]
  • The Democracy in Europa Movement 2025 ( DieM25), a pan-european political activist group of over 100.000 members for progressive EU and global economics policy, founded by Yanis Varoufakis [52]

In the United States

Early efforts

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (center) speaks on the Green New Deal with Senator Ed Markey (right) in front of the Capitol Building in February 2019.

During the 2012 presidential election, the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein proposed a Green New Deal as part of her campaign priorities.[63] The Green Party continued to suggest a Green New Deal in their rebuttal to the 2018 State of the Union speech.[64] The Green New Deal is officially part of the platform of the Green Party of the United States.[65][66]

A "Green New Deal" wing began to emerge in the Democratic Party after the November 2018 elections.[67][68]

A possible program in 2018 for a "Green New Deal" assembled by the think tank Data for Progress was described as "pairing labor programs with measures to combat the climate crisis."[69][70]

A November 2018 article in Vogue stated, "There isn’t just one Green New Deal yet. For now, it’s a platform position that some candidates are taking to indicate that they want the American government to devote the country to preparing for climate change as fully as Franklin Delano Roosevelt once did to reinvigorating the economy after the Great Depression."[45]

A week after the 2018 midterm elections, climate justice group Sunrise Movement organized a protest in Nancy Pelosi's office calling on Nancy Pelosi to support a Green New Deal. On the same day, freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launched a resolution to create a committee on the Green New Deal.[71] Following this, several candidates came out supporting a "Green New Deal", including Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Antonio Delgado.[72] They were joined in the following weeks by Reps. John Lewis, Earl Blumenauer, Carolyn Maloney, and José Serrano.[73]

By the end of November, eighteen Democratic members of Congress were co-sponsoring a proposed House Select Committee on a Green New Deal, and incoming representatives Ayanna Pressley and Joe Neguse had announced their support.[74][75] Draft text would task this committee with a “'detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan' capable of making the U.S. economy 'carbon neutral' while promoting 'economic and environmental justice and equality,'" to be released in early 2020, with draft legislation for implementation within 90 days.[76][77]

Organizations supporting a Green New Deal initiative included 350.org, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth.[78][60]

Opponents noted that the costs of a Green New Deal had not been fully determined, and that achieving 100% renewable energy might not be possible.[78]

Paul Bledsoe of the Progressive Policy Institute expressed concern that setting unrealistic "aspirational" goals of 100% renewable energy, as in the Ocasio-Cortez proposal, "does a disservice to the real seriousness of climate change", and could undermine "the credibility of the effort."[78]

A Sunrise Movement protest on behalf of a Green New Deal at the Capitol Hill offices of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer on December 10, 2018 featured Lennox Yearwood and speakers as young as age 7, resulting in 143 arrests.[50] Euronews, the pan-European news organization, displayed video of youth with signs saying "Green New Deal," "No excuses", and "Do your job" in its "No Comment" section.[79]

On December 14, 2018, a group of over 300 local elected officials from 40 states issued a letter endorsing a Green New Deal approach.[80][81]

That same day, a poll released by Yale Program on Climate Change Communication indicated that although 82% of registered voters had not heard of the "Green New Deal," it had strong bi-partisan support among voters. A non-partisan description of the general concepts behind a Green New Deal resulted in 40% of respondents saying they “strongly support”, and 41% saying they “somewhat support” the idea.[82]

On January 10, 2019 over 600 organizations submitted a letter to Congress declaring support for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This includes ending fossil fuel extraction and subsidies, transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2035, expanding public transportation, and strict emission reductions rather than reliance on carbon emission trading.[83]

Green New Deal Resolution

Ocasio-Cortez's first piece of sponsored legislation: H.Res.109 – 116th Congress (2019–2020) Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey released a fourteen-page resolution[84] for their Green New Deal on February 7, 2019. The approach pushes for transitioning the United States to use 100% renewable, zero-emission energy sources, including investment into electric cars and high-speed rail systems, and implementing the "social cost of carbon" that has been part of Obama administration's plans for addressing climate change within 10 years. Besides providing new jobs, this Green New Deal is also aimed to address poverty by aiming much of the improvements in the "frontline and vulnerable communities" which include the poor and disadvantaged people. To gain additional support, the resolution includes calls for universal health care, fair minimum wages, and preventing monopolies. While this resolution did not identify where the funding for this would come from, the conservative American Action Forum estimated that a similar proposal would cost US$1 trillion without taking into account new investments to achieve the resolution's goals.[85][86][87]

House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis

Various perspectives emerged in late 2018 as to whether to form a committee dedicated to climate, what powers such a committee might be granted, and whether the committee would be specifically tasked with developing a Green New Deal.

Incoming House committee chairs Frank Pallone and Peter DeFazio indicated a preference for handling these matters in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.[78][88] (Writing in Gentleman's Quarterly, Jay Willis responded that despite the best efforts of Pallone and De Fazio over many years, "the planet's prognosis has failed to improve," providing "pretty compelling evidence that it is time for legislators to consider taking a different approach."[77])

In contrast, Representative Ro Khanna thought that creating a Select Committee specifically dedicated to a Green New Deal would be a "very commonsense idea", based on the recent example of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming (2007-2011), which had proven effective in developing a 2009 bill for cap-and-trade legislation.[78][88]

Proposals for the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis did not contain “Green New Deal" language and lacked the powers desired by Green New Deal proponents, such as the ability to subpoena documents or depose witnesses.[89][90][91]

Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida was appointed to chair the committee.[91][92]

January 2019 letter to Congress from environmental groups

On January 10, 2019, a letter signed by 626 organizations in support of a Green New Deal was sent to all members of Congress. It called for measures such as "an expansion of the Clean Air Act; a ban on crude oil exports; an end to fossil fuel subsidies and fossil fuel leasing; and a phase-out of all gasoline-powered vehicles by 2040."[93][94]

The letter also indicated that signatories would "vigorously oppose" ... “market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy.”[93]

Six major environmental groups did not sign on to the letter: the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, Mom’s Clean Air Force, Environment America, and the Audubon Society.[95]

An article in The Atlantic quoted Greg Carlock, who prepared "a different Green New Deal plan for the left-wing think tank Data for Progress" as responding, “There is no scenario produced by the IPCC or the UN where we hit mid-century decarbonization without some kind of carbon capture.”[93]

The MIT Technology Review responded to the letter with an article titled, "Let’s Keep the Green New Deal Grounded in Science." The MIT article states that, although the letter refers to the "rapid and aggressive action" needed to prevent the 1.5 ˚C of warming specified in the UN climate panel’s latest report, simply acknowledging the report's recommendation is not sufficient. If the letter's signatories start from a position where the options of carbon pricing, carbon capture for fossil plants, hydropower, and nuclear power, are not even on the table for consideration, there may be no feasible technical means to reach the necessary 1.5 ˚C climate goal.[96]

A report in Axios suggested that the letter's omission of a carbon tax, which has been supported by moderate Republicans, did not mean that signatories would oppose carbon pricing.[97][94]

The Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy at George Mason University was quoted as saying, "As long as organizations hold onto a rigid set of ideas about what the solution is, it’s going to be hard to make progress ... And that’s what worries me."[96]

Models for implementation

As of January 2019, models for structuring a Green New Deal remain in the initial stages of discussion.

Although Chuck Schumer has indicated that measures to address climate change and renewable energy must be included in a 2019 infrastructure package, as of December 2018, articles describing his position referred to it as "green infrastructure" rather than as a Green New Deal.[98][99]

On January 17, 2019, prospective presidential candidate Jay Inslee called for Green New Deal goals of "net-zero carbon pollution by midcentury" and creating "good-paying jobs building a future run on clean energy" in a Washington Post op-ed. However, he framed these efforts in terms of national mobilization, saying "Confronting climate change will require a full-scale mobilization — a national mission that must be led from the White House."[100]

Economic policy and planning for environment and climate

An article in The Intercept characterizes a Green New Deal more broadly, as economic planning and industrial policy measures which would enable mobilization for the environment, similar to the economic mobilization for World War II, and similar to the internal planning of large corporations. The article quotes an expert who states that imposing jail terms for failure to meet emissions targets "may sound aggressive by today’s standards, but [it] has been par for the course at other points in American history when the country has faced existential threats."[101]

Economist Stephanie Kelton (a proponent of Modern Monetary Policy) and others [102] argue that natural resources, including a stable, livable climate, are limited resources, whereas money -following the abandonment of the gold standard- is really just a legal and social tool that should be marshalled to provide for sustainable public policies. To this end, a mix of policies and programs could be adopted, including tax incentives and targeted taxes, reformed construction and zoning standards, transportation fleet electrification, coastal shoreline hardening, Farm Bill subsidies linked to carbon capture and renewables generation, and much more. Practically, Kelton argues that the key to implementation is garnering enough political support, rather than becoming fixated on specific "pay-fors." Many proposed Green New Deal programs would generate significant numbers of new jobs.[103]

One proposed model for funding says that "funding would come primarily from certain public agencies, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and 'a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks.'" This model, which has been endorsed by over 40 House members, has been compared to the work of the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW, or “Reconstruction Credit Institute,” a large German public sector development bank), the China Development Bank, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.[104]

Employment programs coupled with business investment for environment and climate

New Deal improvisation as a model

Although the non-specific nature of current GND proposals has become a concern for some Greens,[105] one writer from the Columbia University Earth Institute views the lack of specificity as a strength, noting that: "FDR’s New Deal was a series of improvisations in response to specific problems that were stalling economic development. There was no master plan, many ideas failed, and some were ended after a period of experimentation. But some, like social security and the Security and Exchange Commission’s regulation of the stock market, became permanent American institutions."[106]

Green skills worker training programs

Existing programs training workers in green skills include a program called Roots of Success, founded in 2008 to bring low-income people into living wage professions. Funding for Roots of Success came from the $90 billion in green initiatives incorporated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[107]

Green stimulus under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

About 12% of ARRA funding went to green investment,[108] and some of these initiatives were successful. A Jan. 2019 article in Politico stated that, "U.S. wind capacity has more than tripled since 2008, while solar capacity is up more than sixfold. LEDs were 1 percent of the lighting market in 2008; now they’re more than half the market. There were almost no plug-in electric vehicles in 2008; now there are more than 1 million on U.S. roads."[109]

Although ARRA's green stimulus projects are of interest for developing proposals for a Green New Deal, its mixed results included both "boosting innovative firms" such as Tesla, and the $535 million failure of the Solyndra solar company."[109][110] These initial efforts at green stimulus are described as a "cautionary tale." It remains necessary to develop mechanisms for promoting large-scale green business development, as it is unclear whether focusing on job creation programs alone will result in optimizing the climate impact of new jobs.[109]

Criticism

Economist Edward Barbier, who developed the "Global Green New Deal" proposal for the United Nations Environment Programme in 2009, opposes "a massive federal jobs program," saying "The government would end up doing more and more of what the private sector and industry should be doing." Barbier prefers carbon pricing, such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, in order to "address distortions in the economy that are holding back private sector innovation and investments in clean energy."[108]

In the US, Robert Pollin characterized the concept of a "Green New Deal" as "egalitarian green growth," indicating that the seriousness of concerns about climate is also giving rise to alternative Degrowth proposals to contract economies.[111]

On February 9, 2019, United States President Donald Trump voiced his opposition using sarcasm via Twitter as follows: "I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with their Green New Deal. It would be great for the so-called “Carbon Footprint” to permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military - even if no other country would do the same. Brilliant!" [112]

Republican politicians have pointed to language found in a "Frequently Asked Questions" section posted to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's website, now only viewable on the Wayback Machine.[113] Most criticisms centred on a line promising economic security to those "unwilling to work". Green New Deal advisor Robert C. Hockett claimed in a Fox News interview that this line must have only been present in doctored versions of the summary and later admitted that he was mistaken.[114] Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has entered the document into congressional record.[115]

On February 13, 2019, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) released a parody video on his verified Twitter account comparing the Green New Deal to the failed Fyre Festival, using the hashtag #GNDisFyre.[116][117][118]

In a February 2019 interview with Politico, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi openly mocked Ocasio-Cortez's recent resolution for a Green New Deal, saying "The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?"[17] The following day, speaking at a news conference, Pelosi said that while she hasn’t yet seen the details of the proposal, she said “I do know that it’s enthusiastic, and we welcome all the enthusiasm that’s out there ... I’m very excited about it all, and I welcome the Green New Deal and any other proposals.”[119]

When Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was confronted by youth associated with the Sunrise Movement on why she doesn't support the Green New Deal, she told them "there’s no way to pay for it" and that it could not pass a Republican controlled senate. In a tweet following the confrontation, Feinstein said that she remains committed "to enact real, meaningful climate change legislation"[120]

See also

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