The Green New Deal: a solution to both climate crisis and social inequality?

The Green New Deal: a radical resolution aiming to transform society – to transition away from fossil fuels to 100% clean, renewable energy, to guarantee living-wage jobs for all, and to ensure every citizen access to their human rights: safe shelter, clean air, clean water, and healthy, affordable food.

The basic principles of the Green New Deal were devised by a group of academics and activists in the US in response to the 2008 financial crash; they envisaged a policy which would allow society to simultaneously transition away from fossil fuels, improve and expand public services, ensure well-paid clean jobs for every worker – in short, seeking a fairer, greener, safer society. 

The Green New Deal is inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal which helped America recover from the impacts of the Great Depression in the 1930s by uphauling public works: it seeks social reformation whilst also fighting the looming threats of the global climate crisis.

 The Green New Deal resolution lost momentum in the decade following its creation, until 2018 when it rapidly and unexpectedly emerged as the most widely-known and discussed climate policy in the English-speaking world. Its reputation comes largely from the pioneering work of the Sunrise Movement, a US climate group who describe themselves as: ‘a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.’ They have repeatedly made headlines in recent years as they use people power and political pressure to advocate the Green New Deal.

‘We’re building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.’The Sunrise Movement.

The Green New Deal quickly won the support of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who supported the Sunrise Movement when, in November 2018, they occupied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand that the US adopt the Green New Deal policy, making international headlines.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with fellow Democrat Ed Markey, introduced the Green New Deal resolution to the US Congress, where it was defeated in March 2019. Since then, however, the Deal has become an animating force in US and international politics.

As the Sunrise Movement had hoped, the 2020 US election became the election of the Green New Deal, with the majority of the Democratic presidential candidates co-sponsoring or endorsing it.

President Joe Biden called the Deal a ‘crucial framework’ during his campaign, but resisted endorsing it, instead developing his own climate plan, which he has referred to as ‘the most significant legislation in history’. His ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ is a $369 billion package of climate investments, with estimates suggesting it could cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. However, Biden’s plan lacks some of the ambition of the Green New Deal, which seeks to reach net-zero emissions by 2030, and has been estimated to cost anywhere between Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion of $10 trillion and Donald’s Trump’s estimation of $100 trillion.

Currently, as the Biden administration attempts to pass elements of their climate bill through Congress and implement it across the country, the Green New Deal in the US seems to have reached an impasse. However, the efforts of the Sunrise Movement and other groups to promote it have not been in vain, with the resolution’s influence spreading globally: the EU are currently developing their own ‘European Green Deal’.

This policy is similarly ambitious – it aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030. Like the US resolution, the European Green New Deal envisages change in all aspects of society, with benefits such as: fresh air, clean water, healthy soil, and biodiversity; renovated, energy-efficient buildings; healthy and affordable food; more public transport; cleaner energy; future proof-jobs and skills-training for the green transition.

Equally, in the UK, the group Green New Deal Rising have become increasingly well-known as they push for the adoption of their own Green New Deal, which similarly prioritises a rapid transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, alongside creating millions of green, well-paid, secure jobs. The deal also envisages a financial system prioritising people and planet, investment in protecting and restoring habitats, and the provision of clean water, clean air and green spaces for everyone. Significantly, the resolution also includes promoting climate justice globally and supporting the international community in building clean, fair economies. 

‘The GND is a ten-year, game-changing plan to stop climate change and build a world in which we can thrive.’ – GND Rising.

GND Rising are undoubtedly very ambitious; but their vision is based on hope for a future in which we can mitigate the effects of climate change whilst also building a society based on justice and equality.

As has often been observed, the Green New Deal is not so much a legislation as a manifesto outlining the broad principles of an idea which has the potential to transform our societies. The Green New Deal has already come a long way in just a few years: with people power and political pressure it could become the global norm, establishing economies and societies which protect both people and planet.

(Image: Hillel Steinberg via Flickr).

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