5 key points to understanding the Green New Deal
Part of the political response to the Trump Administration has been the resurgence of economic proposals once considered "too progressive" to gain traction. The Green New Deal is one of them, and seems to filter into almost every Democratic campaign.
In a country where unease about the state of the environment has long been a political stance held by so-called "radicals" and "extremists,” one can feel today a growing political pulse that could make such concerns a priority in a major political party's platform in Congress.
After Democrats regained a majority in the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections by championing issues such as healthcare access and immigration, three words have risen to prominence in the party's rhetoric: Green New Deal.
Playing on the title of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Great Depression-era series of programs, financial reforms and public works projects, the Green New Deal is an economic stimulus program that includes proposals such as boosting renewable energy and the efficiency of natural resources, and opposing fossil fuel dependence.
The term first appeared in the media in the mid-2000s, was coined by the Green New Deal Group, and was subsequently promoted by the UN Environment Program.
Based on the premise of "building a sustainable future", the Green New Deal proposes that the country move forward energy-wise by relying less on gas, and more on natural resources - all in an equitable manner, focused on people development.
It furthermore supports discoveries such as those of Pavan Sukhdev's study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, which state that adequate management of ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as the inclusion of "natural capital" in "governmental and business management" could reduce “the cost of future losses."
The Green New Deal promotes giving priority to government investment in energy and resource efficiency - for example, reusable energy and micro-generation - which is reflected in the transformation of infrastructure with low carbon emissions to "create green jobs.”
The funds would be obtained from "a tax directed at the profits of oil and gas companies,” as well as from financial incentives such as low-interest rates on "green investment.”
It also proposes to “stop the evasion of corporate taxes through mandatory financial reports," and restricting tax havens.
Although there exists a Green Party in the U.S., its participation in national politics is marginal.
Since November 2018, however, the Democratic Party has embraced the Green New Deal as part of a strategy to modernize its platform, and attract a more diverse, younger base - and especially millennials.
Democratic House members, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Antonio Delgado, have brought the proposal to the halls of a new Congress.
Currently, 18 Democratic members of Congress have declared their support for a House Select Committee to evaluate a Green New Deal proposal, rejecting President Trump's denial of climate change's existence, and instead promoting a "national, industrial and detailed economic mobilization" project to achieve a “carbon neutral” and fair economy.
The proposal, if passed, would be launched at the beginning of 2020.
For columnists like Robinson Meyer, while environmental awareness is a noble position to hold, Democrats would need to first "control the White House, the House and the Senate" - and then would have to design a proposal that would garner enough support within the party to pass.
Meyer says that this crusade could be much more difficult for Democrats than other progressive issues, such as Medicare-for-all, or a tax on billionaires.
"During the modern era of climate policy, no major emissions reduction project has been able to overcome this challenge," he argues, adding that the time factor is an even greater hurdle to overcome.
Finally, the biggest obstacle facing a proposal such as the Green New Deal is the skepticism held by many Americans of climate change, and the deep roots of private economic interests in Washington.
A true change will require a much broader structural change than what may be perceived at first sight.