Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has announced plans for sweeping legislative reform at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on February 8, 2019

Fashioned after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, a suite of initiatives that changed US society in the 1930s, the ‘Green New Deal’ is a large-scale reform agenda aimed at tackling the effect of climate change from all angles.

The resolution, launched by Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, is billed as a “massive transformation of our society” that could end the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and create far-reaching economic benefits.

The overview of the Green New Deal also states the plan will guarantee “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work” and will increase resources to train people for green jobs.

An ambitious plan covering jobs, energy and farming

A central pillar of the resolution is making the US carbon neutral by 2030. It includes getting all the nation’s power from “clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources”. It also proposes to achieve massive increases in energy efficiency by promoting sustainable agriculture, upgrading buildings and developing more high-speed rail.

The Green New Deal also aims to implement universal healthcare and free higher education. The former would be a shift from the Democrats previous advocacy for a cap-and-trade system which would have sought to limit greenhouse gases by allocating industry permits for polluters.

A poll conducted in December 2018 showed there is at least some support for the general policy ideas championed by Green New Deal supporters. The survey found 92% of Democrats, 88% of Independents and 64% of Republicans were in favour of the proposal.

Reactions to the Green New Deal

Greenpeace USA Climate Director Janet Redman welcomed the deal and said it was “moving the national climate debate to places no one thought possible even a year ago”.

“We stand behind the effort to create millions of family-sustaining union jobs that protect our nation’s clean air, water and communities while confronting systematic injustices head-on,” she said.

“The fossil fuel industry will not transition willingly and on its own to life-sustaining, renewable practices, because it is determined to trash our planet for its profit no matter the cost. We must make every effort to phase out fossil fuels at the same time as we promote renewable energy if we’re going to make it.”

Other commentary on the resolution has said it is flawed in that it does not address the suburban sprawl of the US.
“The places in which we live are generally dispersed, inefficient, and impossible to navigate without a car,” wrote Alex Baca in Slate. The piece argues that federal investment has facilitated the growth of suburbs and the continued reliance on highways and energy-guzzling modes of transportation.

Republican Senator John Barrasso, the Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, dismissed the Green New Deal as a “socialist manifesto”.

Will the Green New Deal win widespread support among Democrats?

Californian Senator Kamala Harris threw her weight behind the project, saying she was proud to co-sign it. “We must aggressively tackle climate change which poses an existential threat to our nation,” she wrote on Twitter.

Other Democrats powerbrokers have not been so enthused. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the proposal a “green dream”, though Ocasio-Cortez said she did not consider the comment dismissive.

At the news conference, Ocasio-Cortez said she had Pelosi’s support. “We are 100 percent in this together,” she said. “We have different solutions, and different mechanisms…this issue faces all of us and we are not going to get divided over it. Period.”

60 members of the house are reportedly in favour of the proposal. Prominent Democrats who have gone on the record as supporters of the plan include Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year issued a damning report on the likely impact of climate change if radical measures are not implemented to mitigate environmental damage.

Despite this, there has seemingly been little political will to move away from societal dependence on fossil fuel. In Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, he proudly said the US has become the world’s leading oil producer and that production numbers were at a “record high”.