Democratic-controlled House Sees Climate Solutions and Jobs in a "Green New Deal"

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement are among the chief supporters of a Green New Deal to help solve climate change while preserving American jobs, equity, and justice.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted the New Deal, a series of programs, to get the United States out of the Great Depression. Today, American legislators are proposing the Green New Deal to help reverse climate change. Many people say that acting on climate change will hurt American jobs. However, the Green New Deal and it's 3-pronged approach pushes action on climate change and helps make sure that jobs are preserved.


The first part could be described as environmental policy. This is the "green" part of the Green New Deal. This will focus on policies and goals for clean energy and climate policy. This includes targets such as 100% renewable energy and net zero emissions. Policies include carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs. This is all part of the Green New Deal.


The second part could be described as jobs. This is the "new deal" part of the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal helps make sure jobs are preserved and increased during climate action. This includes job training. Some people have considered a possible green jobs guarantee. This means that anybody could be guaranteed a job that deals with clean energy, such as an installer, a mechanic, or an engineer. Many people have stated that the Green New Deal will provide better jobs. Those who where coal miners will be under better working conditions. There are also more better-paying jobs as engineers, boosting the overall economy. In addition to jobs, clean energy incentives such as solar panel installation tax credits are part of this section.


The third part could be described as equity and justice. This part means that communities that are most at risk from climate change are prioritized. It also builds on the jobs part, looking at fair wages, labor standards, and job benefits.


Legislators state that the Green New Deal is more of a framework rather than a policy itself. Even the environmental policy part is not actual policy: It is the framework for policy.



Young Activists and New Lawmakers Push Pelosi

"I think the energy of the activists and the new members is actually crucial for us to pass meaningful climate legislation. We can't pretend that somehow they're not important or that their ideas are fanciful—they're not [fanciful]. The question is how to channel that vision into popular and politically powerful messages, policies and, ultimately, actionable legislation."

said Paul Bledsoe, strategic advisor to the Progressive Policy Institute.


Young activists had originally demanded that Speaker Pelosi establish a Select Committee on the Green New Deal. Instead, House leadership established the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, with no specific goal or mandate. The Select Committee also has no subpoena power or even legislative power.


Representative Kathy Castor (D) has been chosen to head this committee. Castor has received less than 1% of her campaign funds from fossil fuel companies, but has pledged to not accept any donations in the future. Yet, she echos ExxonMobil's defense against climate fraud allegations when asked by activists only to appoint members that do not accept money from fossil fuel companies, stating that it would violate First Amendment rights.


Yet, in an InsideClimate News interview with Castor, she said that she supports activists. Castor notes that she wishes that the committee could have legislative and subpoena power, but that they will work to bolster the legislative work of writing committees.



Powerful Senators Add Their Support

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has not directly supported the Green New Deal, but has vocalized support for an infrastructure bill if it has policy for a transition to a clean energy economy. Senator Elizabeth Warren is supporting the Green New Deal as part of her 2020 presidential campaign. Representative Ocasio-Cortez thanked her on Twitter, adding "If your 2020 platform doesn't include a Green New Deal, are you really running for President?"


Representative Ocasio-Cortez's mentor, Senator Bernie Sanders, is another Senate supporter of the Green New Deal.



How To Pay For It?

A federal jobs guarantee program is something that the country hasn't seen since President Roosevelt's New Deal. A jobs guarantee will be costly for the federal government. Senator Sanders' former chief economist, Stephanie Kelton, who has long been an advocate for federal spending on social programs unrestrained by deficit concerns, argues it would be a mistake to establish a program paid for with revenue cuts or tax increases.


Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Ro Khanna (D-California) argued against a House provision for the Green New Deal that offers a "pay-as-you-go" plan that the Republican party offered in 2010. This plan will offer money offsets with revenue cuts and tax increases. The Representative state that this plan does not offer good security for the Green New Deal. Edward Barbier, an economist at Colorado State University, states that the private sector also must do its part in the clean energy transition.


Barbier was commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program to develop a climate actions-and-jobs template called the "Global Green New Deal" in 2009 to help guide nations in environmental action and investments to help lift them out of the Recession of 2008. Some of those ideas were implemented; about 12 percent of Obama's economic stimulus—$118 billion—went to energy efficiency, renewable energy and other green investments, according to Barbier's research. But Barbier doesn't support a federal green jobs guarantee program. He argues that the government would be doing what the private section should be doing.



Is There a Role for Carbon Pricing?

Instead, Barbier suggests that the government should address unevenness in the economy that hold back the private sector and clean energy innovation and investments. He suggests eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies and charging companies for environmental impacts.


This can include a carbon tax and carbon cap-and-trade programs. Kelton, while she doesn't support taxing the public to support the Green New Deal, supports punishing fossil fuel companies because it punishes polluters and is a good monetary source for the Green New Deal. This takes the environmental policy part of the Green New Deal into the equity and justice part to help pay for the deal.