The Green New Deal is a bold trans-formative initiative of the United States economy to tackle the major crises such as inequality and climate change
WT investigates the Green New Deal by revisiting where it started, where it is now and where it has the potential to go
The Green New Deal – legislation spearheaded by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY and Senator Ed Markey, D-MA, attempts to lay out a platform that would result in the reduction of carbon emissions across a broad societal and industrial spectrum, with the aim of mass job creation and economic stimulus.
An op-ed by Nick Conte
The ideology behind the Green New Deal has been longstanding. Grassroots and activist movements that targeted a shift in US policy on nonrenewable energy, began back in the 1970’s with the Oil Crisis of 1973 acting as a catalyst. Tennent’s remained in the hearts of activists throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s when in 2006, aligned movements came to political fruition in the form of the Global Greens: Green New Deal Task Force. The Green New Deal Task Force set out to implement programs in the United States that would result in the following:
One-hundred percent renewable energy by the year 2030;
Employing a carbon tax;
National promotion of public programs;
Creating a single-payer healthcare system; and
Reduced college tuition.
These initiatives were largely developed unbeknownst to a majority of the general public, as they were incubated within the platform of one of the country’s minority ranked political parties, the Green Party. Rapidly however, in 2007, the moniker “Green New Deal”, rose to public prominence, when noted New York Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, “Finally, like the New Deal, if we undertake the green version, it has the potential to create a whole new clean power industry to spur our economy into the 21st century.” (Friedman, 2007).
In quick succession, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) began to promote and unveil a Global Green New Deal initiative in 2008, that targeted creating jobs in the developing sustainability sector.
In 2010, Candidate Howie Hawkins ran on a Green New Deal-centric platform in the New York governor’s race, urging it’s implementation, much like the New Deal, in response to climate change, harkening back to the United States’ response to past pressing national and international crises such as the Great Depression and the rise of Fascism overseas. Despite Hawkins’ unsuccessful bid for governor, similarly aligned candidates have run on Green New Deal Task Force inspired platforms and political ideologies since.
After a brief lapse in public notoriety, the Green New Deal began to remerge itself in the United States’ 2018 Midterm election. The latest incarnation of the Green New Deal was originally sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) who spearheaded efforts to bring a resolution to the Senate floor. The Green New Deal was described as, “pairing labor programs with measures to combat the climate crisis.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s bill echoes that of the Green New Deal Task Force concepts memorialized in 2006 and 2010. It’s important to note that the 2018 Green New Deal is still in its infancy stage, but nonetheless a comparison between the two is inevitable:
2030 Goals: The 2006 Green New Deal Task Force called for 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030. The 2018 Green New Deal aims to eliminate the U.S. carbon footprint by 2030.
Job Creation: The 2006 Green New Deal Task Force called for a target of 20 million jobs. The 2018 Green New Deal outlines goals for creating 16 million jobs capable of family-sustaining wages coupled with adequate “medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security to all people of the United States.” This will be achieved through energy efficient retrofitting, mass transit and ‘clean manufacturing.’
National promotion of public programs: The 2006 Green New Deal Task Force and the 2018 Green New Deal call for community resilience and implementation of national public programs.
Health Care: The 2006 Green New Deal Task Force and the 2018 Green New Deal call for lowered health care costs but do not get into the granular details of how this would be achieved.
Education: The 2006 Green New Deal Task Force and the 2018 Green New Deal note free college education.
Carbon Tax: The 2006 Green New Deal Task Force called for an implementation of a carbon tax noting it is the most efficient means to disincentivize carbon emissions. The 2018 Green New Deal does not cover a carbon tax.
Racial and Economic equity: The 2006 Green New Deal Task Force aimed to bridge the gap between economic classes however the 2018 Green New Deal goes further to mitigate disproportionate economic and environmental hazards that have plagued the working class and minority communities.
IT'S NOT THAT NEW...
Overall, the 2018 Green New Deal is not a new concept. The two initiatives are similar in their political foundations, root beliefs and contain visionary, yet paramount, goals. The new Democratic class have adopted and reinvigorated the movement. However, it’s too early to foresee the impact of the 2018 Green New Deal as the language will not be formally drafted until early 2020.
It’s important to note the 2018 Green New Deal is a 14-page nonbinding resolution sponsored by Ocasio-Cortez in the House and Ed Markey in the Senate. It is in its embryonic stage and it outlines a broad vision that does not yet get into the granularity required for implementation on a national scale.
Today the Green New Deal is the calling card of a 10-year national mobilization to combat the impending consequences of climate change. Day by day, it is gaining attention, if not momentum. Democratic Presidential hopefuls are latching on to this movement and in late April 2019, the City of New York took a major step towards the 2018 Green New Deal’s implementation.
The New York City Council passed a bill which requires large buildings (25,000+ square feet) in New York City to adhere to new regulatory standards. These standards aim at reducing these buildings’ carbon footprint. The bill targets “to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the city’s buildings by 40% over the next decade.” (CNBC, 2019). The bill aligns with the Green New Deal in more than just environmental ways – it requires rent-stabilized buildings to alleviate financial hardship on low-income tenants.
This effort will require building owners to be more transparent in their energy efficiency reporting and help the state of New York achieve its 2050 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2005 levels. Part of the 2018 Green New Deal calls for a retrofitting of existing buildings to be more energy efficient within 10 years – in line with New York State’s goals.
The Green New Deal is also gaining traction across the national political sphere – predominantly in Blue states. Critics say it will cost over $100 trillion to implement; however this is a grossly exaggerated statement. We can anticipate however, that should this initiative become law, it will be one of the most reformative, and expensive pieces of legislation this generation has seen.
By early 2020 the Green New Deal’s language is slated for final drafting, with comprehensive legislation ready for implementation within a 90 day span. It is reasonable to assume however, that this language will not be an all-encompassing piece of legislation, acting as a catch-all, addressing the entirety of the nation’s climate and economic concerns. The Green New Deal as currently constructed, is almost certainly destined to end up as a series of bills – each of which will be under the scrutiny of the American public, numerous governmental committees and Congress – not to mention the White House, who’s occupancy will be determined by the 2020 general election. Moving forward, we should anticipate the Green New Deal’s concepts as a key driver of debate in the 2020 Presidential Election. However, presuming the Green New Deal continues to trend topically, carbon emission reductions across major sectors of the economy, inclusive of not only the power industry, must be addressed in order to achieve a truly comprehensive approach to reform.
Legislation would have to be amended within the current iteration of the Green New Deal to set a pathway to realizing a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030. This would potentially mean shutting down coal and natural gas plants and replacing them with mixed utility-scale solar, wind, hydro and other forms of clean energy. Federal bailouts for the early shuttering of these plants may be required to achieve this, which would assuredly face intense scrutiny from powerful political lobbies.
Job Creation and Transportation:
An important facet to mitigating the adverse impacts of losing coal and natural gas jobs is their replacement with jobs within the clean energy sector.
Building emissions and transportation are top polluters in the United States. The draft legislation would need to address how clean energy jobs, public transport, urban planning, air travel, agriculture and electrifying non-commercial vehicles would be implemented.
There are other obvious challenges; retraining workforces, creating infrastructure to accommodate increased clean public transport, solutions for retroactively alleviating pollution in dense cities, the reduction of air travel pollution, mitigation of methane pollution in agriculture and how to remove millions of cars and busses that are solely dependent on gas, to name a few.
The legislation would need to inject investment into retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency. Congruently electrifying the transportation sector across the board is essential. A carbon tax will incentivize the private sector to reform, but this has been a hotly contested and divisive concept over the past decade.
Racial and Economic Equity:
Supporters of the Green New Deal have committed to deliver environmental and economic justice measures for underserved communities and communities of color through bolstering grassroots movements and prioritizing jobs in these areas. This issue is of heightened importance as numerous findings show that underserved and low-income populations are disproportionately impacted by exposure to industrial pollution/toxins and poor environmental/ air quality conditions.
Healthcare and Education:
Education increases economic and social resources, which subsequently impacts the ability to access healthcare. It’s difficult to decouple these issues and they are inherently co-related. A significant aspect of the effect of education on health and hence healthcare is derived via the attainment of financial resources and economic opportunities, such as income. Congruently through education there are more opportunities for social resources. For example, access to larger social networks which may offer additional support. Gaining unanimous, bi-partisan support is by no means a sure thing, but bridging the gap between nationally privatized education and healthcare and uniquely government run systems is paramount to not only the Green New Deal’s success, but ultimately the success of our nation. Compromises are sure to be made on both sides to gain broader support across the aisle. Healthcare and education have always floated to the top of political conversations, however, remain eclipsed behind the sphere of sharp debate. The Green New Deal has the potential to be the conduit.
To summarize – the Green New Deal and its concepts are not new and many of the Green New Deal’s initiatives have waded through the political trenches before and been met with intense opposition. However, a newly invigorated movement, spurred on by the gains made in the 2018 Midterm elections and the Green New Deal’s latest incarnation, shows signs of momentum and of an increased public interest is putting pressure on law makers to address climate and economic inequity issues. The entire county, as well as those of us within the AEC industry, should anticipate moving forward, that the Green New Deal will continually be contested and scrutinized, while remaining a focal point in election years to come. It’s indeed too early to tell, but within a relatively short span of existence, the 2018 Green New Deal has made quite the splash, with its impact rippling across the political landscape, showing no signs of relenting.
“With the same urgency, speed, and commitment of resources that our country demonstrated in converting to war production for the mobilization for World War II.” (Hawkins, 2010)
“Green New Deal is a big, bold transformation of the economy to tackle the twin crises of inequality and climate change. It would mobilize vast public resources to help us transition from an economy built on exploitation and fossil fuels to one driven by dignified work and clean energy.” (Sierra Club, 2019).
“The heart of this ambitious vision is that it cuts across sectors by providing relief for the most vulnerable Americans in the economic transition, and connecting programs for health care, inequality, and environmental justice with the central selling point of a moonshot green jobs program.” (Leber, 2019).
“The statute would apply to more than 50,000 of the city’s 1 million buildings, which account for about 30% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Altogether, buildings emit about two-thirds of the Big Apple’s planet-warming pollution.” (DiChristopher, 2019).
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DiChristopher, Tom. 2019. New York City Council passes bill to cut building emissions. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/18/new-york-city-council-passes-bill-to-cut-building-emissions.html. [Accessed 10 June 2019].
Friedman, Thomas L.. 2019. A Warning From the Garden – The New York Times. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/19/opinion/19friedman.html. [Accessed 10 June 2019].
Hawkins, Howie. 2019. Howie Hawkins for NY. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.howiehawkins.org/. [Accessed 10 June 2019].
Kahn, Brian. 2019. Most Americans Think We Can Save the Planet and Create Jobs at the Same Time. [ONLINE] Available at: https://earther.gizmodo.com/most-americans-think-we-can-save-the-planet-and-create-1829168916. [Accessed 10 June 2019].
Leber, Rebecca. 2019. No, the Green New Deal Doesn’t Ban Meat or Planes. Here’s What It Does. – Mother Jones. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2019/05/no-the-green-new-deal-doesnt-ban-meat-or-planes-heres-what-it-does/. [Accessed 10 June 2019].
Sierra Club. 2019. What Is a Green New Deal? | Sierra Club. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.sierraclub.org/trade/what-green-new-deal. [Accessed 10 June 2019].
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