By Maia Lehmann. The ever-tenacious Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled her Green New Deal (GND) on February 7th amidst great anticipation. The non-binding resolution, co-sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, sought to provide the United States with a comprehensive vision to combat climate change using a holistic approach. Excitement was widely felt by those who have been waiting decades to see public health, climate change, and environmental justice seriously addressed by federal legislation. But, what did Ocasio-Cortez’s plan actually lay out? And what’s happening to it now?
The goal of the Green New Deal (GND) was to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% renewable power use by 2030. This objective was met by broad support from the American public, with 87.2% of citizens polled saying that they strongly agreed with the statement. Adapting the U.S. energy portfolio is an essential step, seeing as in 2017 petroleum, natural gas, and coal accounted for 77.6% of U.S. energy—a direct disconnect from what Americans say they want from their energy sector.
The 14-page GND begins with a preamble that describes the policy issues as seen by Ocasio-Cortez: one-part climate crisis, one-part economic crisis. The preamble is followed by five goals, 24 projects, and 15 requirements that intend to lay a framework for how to address these problems. Rather than laying out concrete steps however, the GND uses a broad brush to advocate for an energy efficient electrical grids, updating infrastructure, and overhauling the transportation sector. While critics say that it is ignoring the most integral questions, it is strategically opening a space for disagreement and discussion.
The GND faces plenty of hurdles, especially since it includes several social and economic oriented projects, such as, “Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and disability leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.” Whether you agree with these issues or not, including them could make the reality of passing the bill even more difficult than climate legislation is already. And the difficulty of climate legislation is highlighted by the co-sponsorship of Senator Markey, who was a leader on the American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009. The 2009 bill had a much narrower focus but still failed to pass even when both houses of Congress and the presidency was held by Democrats. However, rather than letting that cast a shadow upon the GND, perhaps it speaks to the need for radical changes to the status quo. In fact, 69.8% of Americans polled supported the intertwined social and environmental goals. And due to the inseparable nature of these policy issues it may be advantageous to craft a vision of how they could be developed in tandem. If previous incremental policy efforts have failed, and the opinions of the public are not being reflected by our lawmakers, then it is time to embrace an innovative comprehensive approach.
On March 26th the Senate voted the resolution down in a vote of 57-0, with the majority of Democrats voting “present” in protest to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bringing the bill to the floor without hearings or debate. If anything, Senate Republican’s refusal to even discuss the most pressing issues of climate change demonstrate the necessity for dramatic policy change. The halt of the GND in the senate did not stall the zeal for the overall project of the GND. Representative Ocasio-Cortez is now refocusing her efforts by writing a series of small bills that will target both social and environmental issues in a more individualized method. The GND has successfully reinvigorated and rallied the efforts and public spirit for tackling the current climate crisis and provided a vision for what a sustainable and equitable America could look like. All of the Senate Democrats running for the presidency in 2020 have endorsed the GND, signaling that its vision will continue to permeate and inspire environmental legislation. This will not be the end of a green future that will support all of America.