Here’s Everything You Need To Know About The Green New Deal

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Before she was sworn into office on January 3, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started talking about the need for a Green New Deal — a sweeping proposal that would radically change the U.S., taking us from dependence on fossil fuels to a renewable energy-based economy in just 12 years. Hype has grown, but details of the plan have been scarce — until now. This morning, Ocasio-Cortez released a resolution, developed alongside Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, which outlines not only goals and aspirations of the Green New Deal, but specific policy proposals.

Before this morning’s unveiling, the GND was already gaining in popularity, with most Democratic candidates for president publicly supporting the initiative, but it’s important to build upon that popularity with more prescriptive language: the GND cannot just be an abstraction if it’s going to work. That said, what Ocasio-Cortez and Markey released this morning is not a piece of legislation being introduced to either chamber of Congress. Rather, it lays out how the Green New Deal will likely work, balancing a vision for the future with more concrete recommended policies — an important step in order to drum up more support for the proposal.

The full document outlines five major goals (on top of numerous smaller goals), over a dozen major projects to achieve said goals, and multiple requirements for completing the projects in a manner consistent with the resolution’s climate and justice goals. If you’re interested, you can read the full resolution here. Otherwise, read our explainer of the highlights you need to know.

First, why the Green New Deal?

To start with, the resolution, which has at least 64 co-sponsors in the House and 9 in the Senate, outlines why the GND is necessary. The long and short of it: we have a very limited amount of time to slow global warming, for which the U.S. has “historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Citing the October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report and the Fourth National Climate Assessment report from November 2018, the resolution states, in no uncertain terms, that the world has approximately 12 years to limit the human-caused warming of the earth to 2 degrees Celsius (if not 1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial temperatures, or the results will be catastrophic.

If we do not stanch the warming of the planet within this 12-year period, and global warming crosses the 2 degree threshold, the following will result:

  • A loss of 99 percent of coral reefs on earth
  • Wildfires that, by 2050, will burn twice as much land as pre-2019 levels
  • A loss of approximately $500 billion in annual economic output by the U.S. economy
  • Upwards of $1 trillion in damage to public infrastructure and real estate along the U.S. coastlines
  • 350 million people exposed to “deadly heat stress” by 2050

To put things into perspective: the planet warmed approximately 1 degree Celsius by 2015, according to Climate Analytics, and the warming of the planet has nearly doubled since the 1970s. Per the GND resolution, the U.S. was responsible for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions through 2014 and must take the lead on reducing emissions immediately.

Now, onto the meat of the resolution.

The GND’s goals:

There are five major goals outlines in the proposal. They are:

  1. Achieve net-zero carbon emissions
  2. Create millions of high-paying jobs
  3. Invest in sustainable infrastructure and industry
  4. Guarantee clean air and water, climate resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment
  5. Promote justice and equity for historically marginalized people

Further, the GND outlines goals such as increasing domestic manufacturing, stopping the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas, and meeting 100 percent of the U.S.’s power demands with renewable energy within 10 years. They also want to create a high-speed rail to reduce emissions resulting from the current transportation infrastructure, restore threatened habitats, create equity in the food supply chain, and even remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Sure sounds like a lot, so you may be thinking: How the hell are they going to accomplish any of this?

The action plan:

Over a 10-year period, which the resolution refers to as “Green New Deal mobilization” the legislators behind the GND will implement laws, directives, executive orders, and more as needed. Some examples:

  • Repair and upgrade infrastructure in the U.S. to ensure all existing buildings and new buildings in the U.S. “achieve maximal energy efficiency”
  • Guarantee all future infrastructure bills in Congress will address climate change
  • Invest in the expansion and upgrading of existent renewable energy sources
  • Build and upgrade smart power grids
  • Invest in research & development for clean energy sources
  • Invest in the creation of a high-speed rail in order to lower reliance on cars and airplanes
  • Invest in zero-emissions vehicle development and public transportation
  • Support family farming and invest in sustainable land-use and farming practices
  • Work with farmers to create a more equitable system which “ensures universal access to healthy food”
  • Reforestation and restoration of delicate and damaged ecosystems
  • Clean up existing hazardous waste

Hoo boy, that’s a lot. A lot of time, a lot of different proposals, a lot of money.

So, why should people agree to this? And how would we pay for it?
Outlined in the resolution are several requirements for the GND, some of which include:

  • Invest in higher education, especially for “frontline and vulnerable” communities who would traditionally struggle with the move away from greenhouse gas-intensive industries.
  • Obtain “free, prior, and informed” consent from indigenous people for all decisions that affect said people, honoring tribal treaties, and protecting sovereignty and land rights of said people
  • Prevent monopolies from destroying or damaging true competition
  • Guarantee rights for workers, including the right to unionize and collectively bargain, strengthen workplace health and safety, create stronger anti-discrimination laws, and create “family-sustaining” wages for jobs

In other words: there are safeguards to guarantee that those most affected by the GND will have a major role in how it is enacted at the local, state, and federal levels. Further, there are longterm requirements which will ease the transition for people who are directly affected by the transition away from greenhouse gas-creating enterprises.

As for the question of money: Ocasio-Cortez briefly addressed this question during her interview with Anderson Cooper. One means of raising the funds would be to enact a 60 to 70 percent marginal tax rate for the highest earners. “On your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates at 60 or 70 percent,” she said.

Cool, so, now that we know what’s in the New Green Deal, when will this happen?

That answer is complicated. Not even all Democrats are convinced. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, when discussing the creation of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, called the GND “the green dream or whatever they call it.” She said it would be “one of several or maybe many suggestions” that the committee considers.

Further, if it gets far enough for a floor vote, in order to prevent a filibuster when it is brought to the Senate floor, there need to be 60 votes, or else Democrats need to eliminate the filibuster. Right now, though the GND is growing in popularity, it doesn’t have the votes to pass.

So, as to when any of this could be implemented, we may have a bit of a wait. But, still, it’s exciting to see the proposal and how dozens of legislators envision radical positive change for the country — and the world.