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Tracking the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal has very quickly become a big deal in progressive policy circles, among activists, and even in Congress. If you’ve heard of it, or about it, but don’t really know what exactly it is, then read on. Below is a set of answers to the basic questions about the Green New Deal and links to places where you can learn more. I’m adding updates to the top of this post as major events occur.

Update: Green New Deal Framework Released (February 7, 2019)

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey released a non-binding resolution today (and an accompanying FAQ) that provides a framework for a Green New Deal.

  • It should be noted that the non-binding resolution has no practical impact and certainly wouldn’t pass if introduced as legislation. The real goal here is to focus attention on the issue and pressure other lawmakers to get on board, especially those Democrats running for the 2020 presidential nomination.

  • The resolution outlines a 10-year mobilization on a grand scale. The mobilization includes: achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions via energy efficiency, a massive increase in the use of renewables, changes to infrastructure, transportation, and agriculture. It also focuses on adaptation via ecosystem renewal and protection, biodiversity, and local climate resiliency. The resolution aims to incorporate for equality and environmental justice so that it achieves positive results (including a job guarantee) for all Americans.

  • There is very little information in the resolution about the economics of the Green New Deal, specifically with regard to a carbon tax.

  • For more information, check out this Green New Deal overview from NPR and quick hits from Axios.

Green New Deal Overview

What is it?

As of now, it’s a broad set of policy goals meant to beat back the effects of climate change by transitioning to clean energy, improving energy efficiency, creating a green jobs guarantee, and doing it all in a way that is equitable and just for everyone. The name is a reference to FDR’s New Deal, a massive program that aimed to pull the United States out of the Great Depression.

Go deeper:

Whose idea was it?

Thomas Friedman? Yep, Thomas Friedman. He first advocated for a Green New Deal in the New York Times a dozen years ago and explored many of the same themes in his book Hot, Flat, and Crowded. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) also took up the idea and packaged it as a Global Green New Deal and Obama even added it to his platform when running for president in 2008.

The Green New Deal, in spirit and in name, was resurrected during the 2018 midterms by progressive candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and got a huge boost from the inspiring young people of the Sunrise Movement.

For historical context, check out that Vox explainer, as well as this deeper dive on the history of the Green New Deal at Grist.

Who’s supporting it?

The brief answer is more people and organizations than I can list here.

Huffington Post has a breakdown of elected officials who have endorsed the Green New Deal, and here’s a letter of support sent to Congress by more than 600 environmental groups.

Steve Zwick at Ecosystem Marketplace is cataloging where the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates stand on the Green New Deal, carbon pricing, and other environmental issues.

As far as popular opinion goes, people seem to really, really like the Green New Deal…in theory. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication conducted a survey of approximately 1,000 registered voters. The results showed overwhelming bipartisan support, but when asked how much they’d heard about the Green New Deal, 82% of respondents answered “nothing at all.” It will be interesting to see how public support changes over time as more policy and program details take shape.

What’s next?

Good question. So far, there’s a draft document proposing the establishment of a select House committee to draft the actual plan that would become the Green New Deal.

A recent article from Axios indicates that Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey are drafting joint legislation that could be unveiled as soon as the week of February 4th. Markey has long been a progressive voice for Mass and introduced his own climate change legislation as a congressman in 2009. His bill died in the Senate, which is the likely fate of any Green New Deal legislation sent to the Republican-controlled Senate. In fact, a lot has to go right for Democrats to pass meaningful climate change legislation in the near future.