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So, What Is the Green New Deal?

February 20, 2019

In the weeks since Democrats took over the House of Representatives, an idea has been gaining some momentum and media attention: A Green New Deal. According to CNN’s Zachary Wolf, the proposal will likely become a litmus test on the road to the Democratic presidential nomination.1 In this post, we’ll take a look at what is in the Green New Deal and the debates surrounding some of the proposals.

Newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is the leading proponent of the Green New Deal and has cosponsored a resolution, along with Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., to support the idea. The resolution, which is non-binding, would only express the commitment of Congress to work on the creation of Green New Deal laws and programs.2 Representative Ocasio-Cortez told NPR, “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. … 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.”3

So, Just What Is in the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal is intended to address concerns about future economic growth, climate change, and income inequality. Major elements of the plan, as described in the non-binding resolution being considered by Congress, include:4

  • “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources”
  • “building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘smart’ power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity”
  • “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification”
  • “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and (iii) high-speed rail”
  • “removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation”
  • “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible”
  • “guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States”
  • “strengthening and enforcing labor, workplace health and safety, anti-discrimination, and wage and hour standards across all employers, industries, and sectors”
  • “providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States, with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities, so those communities may be full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization”
  • “strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment”
  • “enacting and enforcing trade rules, procurement standards, and border adjustments with strong labor and environmental protections”
  • “obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous people for all decisions that affect indigenous people and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous people, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and landrights of indigenous people”
  • “providing all people of the United States with — (i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature”

As these excerpts illustrate, the scope of the Green New Deal is sweeping and ambitious. It would impact major sectors of the economy, labor laws, trade policy, the social safety net, access to education, transportation, and the manufacturing, energy, and agriculture industries. Needless to say, there is widespread discussion and debate about the Green New Deal, and we will revisit the political aspects of the debate in a future post.

For a full background on the development of the Green New Deal, see Vox.com’s Green New Deal, Explained.

Discussion Questions

  • How high a priority do you think climate change should be for policymakers? What about income and wealth inequality?
  • Which proposals in the Green New Deal do you agree with? Which do you disagree with?
  • Which proposals do you think are most important and why?
  • As a whole package, do you think that the Green New Deal is a good idea? Why or why not?


Featured Image: Saul Loeb, AFP-Getty Images; from Time.com

[1] CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/politics/green-new-deal-proposal-breakdown/index.html

[2] CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/07/aoc-just-updated-her-massive-green-new-deal–heres-whats-in-it.html

[3] NPR: https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/691997301/rep-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-releases-green-new-deal-outline

[4] CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/politics/green-new-deal-proposal-breakdown/index.html

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