There's a new congressional class in town, and they're not messing around. Back in November, a team of environmental activists with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) by their side made it known that time was up on climate change reform. They came out swinging with a plan to take on environmental concerns and push for real change, but what's actually in the Green New Deal proposal? There's finally a formal outline, so get ready.
On Thursday, Feb. 7, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) plan to announce, in an afternoon press conference, a formal outline of a new policy package known as the Green New Deal that would overhaul the economy and in doing so eliminate all U.S. carbon emissions, according to NPR. A resolution obtained by NPR illustrates the main points of the Green New Deal. Among other points, the plan calls to obtain "net-zero greenhouse gas emissions" by transitioning to renewable energy sources as well as upgrading existing infrastructure to be more "energy efficient"; plan for climate-change related natural disasters and prepare communities for them before they happen; encourage "clean" manufacturing to use renewable energy sources; and overhaul the transportation system to eliminate pollution and make mass transit more feasible. The resolution also outlines goals for securing clean air, water, and healthy food for future generations.
The Green New Deal doesn't neglect the economic points, either. While protecting the environment and promoting the economy are often portrayed as an either-or, the resolution actively addresses economic concerns and the Deal's intention "to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States."
For instance, it promotes the creation of jobs with "family-sustaining wages," the hiring of local employees, career advancement opportunities, and advocates for protections of workers' right to unionize. The inclusion of the economy acknowledges the connection between climate concerns and other social issues, and that working class or lower-income groups are most vulnerable to the risks brought on by climate change like facing hurricanes and droughts.
While the Green New Deal is being publicly spearheaded by Ocasio-Cortez, it's based on the work of activist groups the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization pushing for climate change, and Justice for Democrats, a political action committee that backed Ocasio-Cortez in the general election. In a November 2018 email to Elite Daily, Waleed Shahid, the communications director of Justice Democrats, explained the intersection between climate change and other social justice issues. "Catastrophic climate change touches so many other intersecting issues," he wrote. "The communities that are most impacted tend to be working class or people of color while the people most responsible for causing climate change are white and ultra-rich."
Overhauling systems like transportation is intended not only to reduce carbon emissions and strengthen our climate and make it sustainable, but to reinvigorate these industries for financial and economic growth — as laid out in the policy package. Sierra Club Living Economy Program Director Ben Beachy told Elite Daily in a December interview that clean air and water and good jobs aren't mutually exclusive, and the Green New Deal could actually create way more employment opportunities. "It's a played-out trope that we have to choose between clean air and water, and good jobs," said Beachy. "A green new deal would create millions of family-sustaining jobs. [Manufacturing employees] are the ones who'll be leading the way — they'll be manufacturing tomorrow's light rail system, improving buildings, replacing storm water systems ... there's a whole lot of work."
Despite the potential for a policy like the Green New Deal, it's not a done "deal" just yet. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expressed her admiration for the activists behind the Green New Deal back in November, but in a Feb. 7 interview with Politico, the speaker said the deal is one of "many suggestions." Elite Daily reached out to Pelosi's office for comment on her statement, but did not immediately hear back. Pelosi said,
It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?
While there's clearly still a long way to go, because this is the government and all. But, at least there's movement.