The Green New Deal- The Future the Environment Desperately Needs, Or Merely a Pipe Dream?

NEW YORK - The Green New Deal (GND for short) is a series of proposed economic stimulus programs sponsored by United States Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). The stated goals of the GND are to address the issues of global climate change as well as issues pertaining to economic inequality.

Presented to Congress on February 7, 2019, the GND is a "resolution" that, if passed, would comprise a series of guidelines; it not a bill that whose text would propose a new law.

The name “Green New Deal” – which has been floating around in the media and politics since 2008 – references President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal reform package introduced in 1933, which consisted of a series of nationwide public works projects and social and economic reforms in an effort to combat the debilitating effects of the Great Depression. The GND takes a similar approach to Roosevelt’s plan while addressing the concepts of renewable energy and resource efficiency.

The GND resolution (House Resolution 109/ Senate Resolution 59) is comprised of a series of ten concrete goals – whose "three core principles" are stated as being "decarbonization, jobs, and justice" – which are as follows:

  • Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.
  • Providing all people of the United States with high-quality health care; affordable, safe, and adequate housing; economic security; and access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.
  • Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States.
  • Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.
  • Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible.
  • Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘smart’ power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity.
  • Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.
  • Overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and high-speed rail.
  • Spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible.
  • Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.

Essentially, the GND aims to provide a transitional template for the United States to overhaul its energy creation and consumption to a completely renewable model utilizing zero-emission energy sources, including major investment in electricity-based transportation systems including cars and trains. The GND looks to make these changes in an effort to combat the effects of climate change as well as a means of overhauling the American job market – the new green technologies are estimated to create a large number of new employment opportunities – and address issues such as poverty by promoting such jobs in disadvantaged communities.

The GND also has several other aspects bundled in it relating to social and economic reform in the United States, including the introduction of concepts such as universal health care, an increased minimum wage, and guidelines that would help prevent the formation of monopolies. In addition, “green” job training programs would be made available in order to help the workforce transition over to the newly emerging careers brought on by the GND.

Of course, while there is widespread support for the GND and the many benefits it could provide to the environment and economy, the proposed resolution has garnered just as much criticism. One of the major issues that some detractors point out is that achieving 100 percent reliance on renewable may simply be impossible – both in terms of technology and the realistic ability to pay for it – and attempting to do so could potentially undermine the overall credibility of combating climate change. Also, the passage of the GND could serve to give more power in the jobs sector to the federal government as opposed to private industry, representing an overstepping of the government’s authority in this regard.

Currently, there are no concrete methods in place for implementing the GND, provided the resolution is passed in both the House and Senate (currently there is no specific vote date set yet), although some initial ideas are being discussed among lawmakers. The lack of a specific plan has garnered some degree of criticism from the plan’s detractors, although some historians cite President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program, which itself was implemented with only a basic framework of goals and ideas and as a result, allowed a great deal of flexibility in the face of unexpected issues. Some aspects of Roosevelt’s plan indeed did not work, and were subsequently discarded, but the New Deal overall was considered an overall success.

If passed, only time will tell of the Green New Deal will hold a similar place in history.